Occupational Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is dangerous to anyone who comes in contact with it. Before the risks were widely known, asbestos was used on many job sites. It was also widely used in the U.S. military. Workers and service members were surrounded by asbestos-containing products for much of their careers. As a result, they were put at risk of serious or fatal diseases like mesothelioma.

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High Risk Occupations for Asbestos Exposure

High-Risk Jobs for Asbestos Exposure & Mesothelioma

Throughout much of the 20th century, asbestos was everywhere. It was used across dozens of industries and in all branches of the U.S. military.

For over 5 decades, many jobs have put people in contact with asbestos. This highly durable mineral was popular among industry executives because it resisted heat, fire, and electricity. It was also abundant, making it easy and cost-effective to mine.

Workers who constructed buildings and vehicles may have used asbestos-based products regularly. At the time, these innocent people did not know that use of asbestos was dangerous. Due to a culture of secrecy fueled by corporate greed, asbestos manufacturers concealed the health risks associated with the toxic material.

Asbestos products can often be disturbed, as with the destruction of a building, for example. When this happens, tiny asbestos fibers enter the surrounding air. Workers can breathe in these fibers and suffer from long-term health problems.

Many workers are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related diseases decades after they were first exposed.

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17 Jobs at Risk of Occupational Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was present in dozens of products and worksites from the 1920s to the 1980s. Many jobs put workers at risk because asbestos was used so widely.

Frequent exposure to asbestos is linked to a higher risk of developing an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma or lung cancer.

The list of jobs that could have put people at risk for occupational asbestos exposure is alarming. If you think you may have worked in any of the asbestos exposure occupations, search our job site database for more information.

Some examples of high-risk asbestos exposure jobs include:

1. Aircraft Mechanics

Asbestos was used in aircraft parts subject to high levels of heat and friction. This included brakes, brake pads, and engine components, among other parts. When aircraft mechanics would repair or remove these parts, asbestos fibers could fall on them or enter the air around them.

2. Automotive Mechanics

Certain car parts were built with asbestos to help them last longer. Parts that commonly used asbestos included brakes and clutches. Many auto mechanics came into contact with these items daily. As the mechanics manufactured and repaired vehicles, asbestos fibers spread through the air. In turn, the fibers could be easily inhaled.

3. Boilermakers

Asbestos allowed boilers, which generate heat and energy through steam, to run longer and more efficiently. Doors, walls, and pipes in boiler rooms also frequently used asbestos. When boilermakers worked in these cramped rooms, they worked in a den of asbestos.

4. Cabinet Makers

Cabinet makers frequently used asbestos-containing materials on the job. Common asbestos-containing materials included adhesives, fiberboard, and paint. As cabinet makers used these materials, asbestos fibers entered the air around them.

5. Carpenters

A wide assortment of tools and building products used by carpenters contained asbestos. This included drywall, insulation, and plasters. Carpenters who worked on construction sites were also at an increased risk from asbestos-based construction materials.

6. Coal Miners

15% of all coal mines are contaminated with asbestos fibers. In addition, coal mining equipment made before the 1980s frequently contained asbestos. This included hoisting machines, shuttle cars, and winces. Coal miners who worked in cramped underground spaces were at risk of inhaling airborne asbestos fibers.

7. Construction Workers

Asbestos was prevalent in the construction industry due to its fire-resistant properties. It was used to construct many residential and commercial buildings before 1980. Insulation, cement powders, and plasters often contained asbestos. Construction workers ran a high risk of asbestos exposure when building, destroying, or handling asbestos-based materials.

8. Custodial & Maintenance Workers

Custodial workers were put in danger by many of the same risk factors that construction workers faced. The asbestos in building materials, insulation, shingling, or plaster could easily be disturbed during custodial work. As older buildings like schools or offices aged, the risk only became greater for custodial and maintenance workers.

9. Electricians

Because of its heat resistance and fire-protectant properties, asbestos was widely used in electrical equipment. This could include electrical ducts, circuit breakers, and electric wiring insulation. When electricians work on and around older electrical equipment, asbestos could get disturbed, releasing fibers into the air and causing occupational asbestos exposure.

10. Firefighters

When buildings that contain asbestos catch fire, the asbestos fibers could become airborne. Firefighters and other first responders who arrived to control the blaze may have inhaled the asbestos dust without realizing the danger, making them twice as likely than the general population to develop mesothelioma.

For example, firefighters who were exposed to toxic dust during 9/11 may face serious health effects like asbestos cancer later in life.

Additionally, many firefighters may be at risk of exposure to toxic chemicals in firefighting foam, which has been used since the 1960s. These chemicals are linked with multiple types of cancer, especially with regular exposure.

Sadly, this puts firefighters at especially high risk for occupational harm.

11. Metal Workers

For decades, asbestos was relied upon heavily for its heat resistance and fireproofing qualities. Because of this, work areas and protective clothing in the metal industry often contained asbestos, putting workers at increased cancer risk.

12. Military Service Members

The brave men and women who served in the U.S. military put their lives on the line to defend our freedom. While doing so, they lived on bases, drove vehicles, and used equipment made with asbestos-containing materials. Exposure was highest among those who performed construction or maintenance jobs during their service.

Because of this, military veterans make up a large percentage of mesothelioma cases. This is especially true for those who served in the U.S. Navy since naval ships contained a variety of asbestos-based parts.

If you are a veteran who was harmed by asbestos, it is very important to note that lawsuits are not filed against the U.S. military, which was largely unaware of the dangers of asbestos.

Instead, asbestos lawsuits are filed against the corporations that hid the truth, putting profits ahead of people.

“I didn’t wanna sue my government and I damn sure didn’t wanna sue the U.S. Navy cause they’re still feeding me. I wasn’t suing the government, I wasn’t suing the U.S. Navy, I was suing the manufacturer.”
– Walter, U.S. Navy veteran & Sokolove Law client who received over $40 Million

13. Manufacturing Workers

People who worked in plants or factories where asbestos products were manufactured are at increased risk for occupational asbestos exposure. These job sites were likely to have higher concentrations of asbestos fibers in the air, putting workers at risk for inhalation.

Steel mills, cement plants, textile mills, and many other plants or factories could have also put workers at increased risk.

14. Plumbers

Plumbers came into frequent contact with asbestos because the material resisted erosion and heat. Pipes, tanks, and ducts were often made with asbestos. Those who worked as plumbers before 1980 have a higher risk of developing malignant mesothelioma due to occupational asbestos exposure.

15. Railroad Workers

Workers in the railroad industry have a greater risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. This is because asbestos products were widely used for heat shielding and insulating locomotives. Asbestos was also used in brake and clutch linings.

16. Shipyard Workers

Asbestos was used in shipbuilding for decades. During construction or repairs, asbestos fibers were often released into the air. Deck coverings, floor tiles, and paint were just a few products in shipyards that contained asbestos. This includes U.S. Navy ships and shipyards. Anyone in the surrounding area would have been in danger of inhaling the asbestos fibers.

17. Welders

Welders frequently worked in buildings constructed with asbestos-containing materials. The equipment they worked with daily may have also contained asbestos, including pipes and welding rods. Welding was a high-risk occupation before 1980.

Family Members of Workers in Asbestos Exposure Jobs

Sadly, family members of workers in asbestos exposure occupations may also be at risk. This type of asbestos exposure is called take-home or secondhand exposure.

When a worker is exposed to asbestos on the job, the asbestos fibers can settle in their hair or clothing. When they return home, the fibers can then get released into the air, especially by doing laundry, exposing their loved ones as well.

Even children who hugged their parents while they were still in their work clothes could be at risk.

If you were diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness and lived with someone with occupational asbestos exposure, you may be able to file a lawsuit.

Billions Recovered Nationwide

At Sokolove Law, we’ve recovered over $5 Billion for thousands of mesothelioma patients and their families nationwide. Let us get you the results you deserve.

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If you developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease due to occupational asbestos exposure, it is not your fault.

Many companies chose to make asbestos-containing products even though they knew the associated health risks. These companies put profits over the lives of their innocent workers in known asbestos exposure occupations.

As a result, many asbestos companies had to set up asbestos trust funds for those they wronged. These trust funds were mandated by federal courts.

$30 Billion

Estimated Amount in Asbestos Trust Funds

Working with an experienced asbestos law firm can help you access these funds.

Sokolove Law has over 40 years of experience helping those exposed to asbestos get compensation. This includes many victims of occupational asbestos exposure. Our mesothelioma lawyers use their resources and experience to help build strong cases for clients.

Mesothelioma compensation can help pay for:

  • Diagnostic scans
  • Insurance co-pays
  • Long hospital stays
  • Lost wages
  • Medications
  • Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments
  • Travel expenses

Contact Sokolove Law today for a free case review by calling (800) 647-3434 or filling out our contact form.

Occupational Asbestos Exposure & Mesothelioma FAQs

What jobs are at risk of mesothelioma?

Unfortunately, job sites in much of the 20th century involved contact with asbestos. This is because the material was widely used across dozens of industries.

Jobs with a greater risk of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma include construction workers, firefighters, mechanics, military service members, shipyard workers, and more. These workers frequently handled asbestos-containing products or materials.

Even to this day, jobs that involve working in older asbestos-containing structures can put workers at risk if the toxic material is disturbed.

What are the first signs of asbestos exposure?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the first signs of asbestos exposure may include shortness of breath, a chronic dry cough, and tight chest or chest pain.

Contact your doctor without delay if you have any worrisome symptoms that could be a sign of occupational asbestos exposure.

Can the lungs clear asbestos?

The lungs can not clear asbestos once they are inhaled, which can cause lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma to develop over decades.

However, some types of asbestos are removed naturally when the body breaks the fibers down.

How long do you need to be exposed to asbestos before it harms you?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. While most people who are exposed are not harmed, others are.

Studies show that repeated or prolonged exposure, which is often the reality of occupational asbestos exposure, may put people at greater risk for harm.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: December 1, 2022

View 5 Sources
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