Where Asbestos Exposure Occurs
Asbestos exposure can happen nearly anywhere, but due to the mineral’s strength, flexibility, and insulation capabilities, asbestos was commonly used in industrial and military occupations.
Most individuals in the United States were exposed in blue-collar industries such as the construction, mining, and automotive industries. However, some individuals may also be exposed to asbestos in the home or the natural environment.
Occupational Asbestos Exposure
The most common form of asbestos exposure is occupational asbestos exposure (when a person is exposed to asbestos because of their job), according to the National Organization of Rare Diseases (NORD).
During the 1930s-1960s, the production of asbestos-containing products was at its peak in the United States, exposing many blue-collar workers to the toxic mineral.
Worksites with potential asbestos exposure risk include:
- Mining Sites
- Construction Sites
- Chemical Plants
- Oil Refineries
- Automobile Assembly Plants
- Coal Mines
- Military Bases
- Power Plants
- Steel Mills
While asbestos use was reduced throughout the 1970s, and most uses in the United States ended after 1989, asbestos has not been completely banned or removed in certain industries.
Military Asbestos Exposure
In the United States, over 30% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are veterans. Asbestos was used heavily in the United States military, especially in the Navy, where millions of military personnel, ship workers, and others were exposed.
The mineral’s flame-resistant and durable properties made it an excellent insulator for use in ships, vehicles, military bases, and other places.
Secondhand Asbestos Exposure
Someone may also be exposed to asbestos indirectly from another person who carried home asbestos fibers on their clothes, skin, and hair. This process is called secondhand exposure.
“There is some evidence that family members of workers heavily exposed to asbestos face an increased risk of developing mesothelioma,” according to the NCI.
Today, United States federal law requires workplaces involved with asbestos to limit the possibility of secondhand exposure, but there may still be increased risk.
Environmental Asbestos Exposure
According to the NCI, everyone experiences some level of asbestos exposure during their lifetimes because a small amount of the mineral naturally gets into the air, water, and soil.
These low levels of exposure rarely make people ill. However, there are a few places where asbestos exists in unusually high levels, putting people at increased risk for environmental asbestos exposure.
There may be naturally-occurring asbestos deposits, but more commonly, living close to asbestos mines may put people at risk of exposure.