Occupations at Risk for Exposure
Long considered a miracle of nature, asbestos is now thought of as the leading occupational hazard for thousands of American workers. Asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer that attacks the inner abdominal lining.
Every day, workers are unknowingly exposed to asbestos and related cancer risks. It’s used extensively in chemical plants, building materials and the automotive industry, just to name a few. Although there are no remaining active asbestos mines in the United States, that doesn’t mean asbestos isn’t used here. Instead, it is shipped in from developing countries by the ton and used in various industries.
In the early 1900s, asbestos was used in everything from baby toys to construction materials. While there was a widespread scale back on asbestos use nationally, it was never outlawed. Contrary to popular belief, asbestos is not banned in the U.S. Today, there are several occupations that are known for ongoing asbestos use or previous use that continues to cause problems:
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Asbestos and the Military
Of all the occupations that are susceptible to asbestos exposure, the military remains one of the biggest offenders. It started in the early 1900s, when military leaders saw asbestos as a useful material to protect the troops and equipment from chemical, heat and fire hazards. By World War II and the Korean War, the military mandated asbestos use across the board. The U.S. Navy alone authorized that asbestos was to be used everywhere aboard ships and submarines. An estimated 4.3 million American shipyard workers were exposed. Currently, many of those asbestos-laden pieces of equipment, buildings and vehicles remain in service, putting thousands at risk.
For workers in construction and demolition, the risk of asbestos exposure is high. Roofing products including tiles, cements and tars contain asbestos. In fact, more than 40 percent of all the asbestos that is used in the U.S. today is used in roofing products. This puts roofing workers in particular danger. At the same time, workers who do remodeling work should take special precautions.
Chemical Plants Employees
By far, the biggest asbestos user in the U.S. is the chloralkali chemical industry, which makes the building blocks for scores of products from paper to PVC pipe. Asbestos is used in the diaphragms for the electrolytic cells that separate the chemicals. Overall, the chloralkali industry uses 57 percent of all of the asbestos used in the U.S. in 2012 alone.
In addition, there are several other occupations that have a strong link to asbestos and account for a significant number of mesothelioma-related injuries:
- First Responders
- Railroad Workers
- Mine Workers
- Steel Mill Workers
- Home Building
- Power and Light Workers
- Tile Setters
- Gasket Manufacturers
- Rubber Workers
- Protective Clothing Fabricators
- Warehouse Employees
If you think you were exposed to asbestos on the job, seek medical attention immediately. The best way to combat mesothelioma is through early detection. A skilled medical professional and asbestos-disease specialist can help you design your best treatment plan.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Asbestos.” Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/asbestos
Chemical & Engineering News. “Asbestos Ban Allows Chlor-Alkali Use.” Retrieved from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/cen-v085n032.p029