Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace
Anyone working in industrial capacities up until the 1980s is at major risk of workplace asbestos exposure. Even today, residual asbestos use is still a major occupational health and safety threat.
Certain occupations are known to be high-risk jobs and have since led to numerous asbestos-related deaths, including deaths caused by the rare and aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma.
High Occupational Risks
Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have indicated that over 96% of deaths caused by mesothelioma were related to occupational asbestos exposure.
Because of the severe risk asbestos poses in the workplace, all civilians and veterans must be aware of how their work history potentially put them in jeopardy and may still threaten their health today.
A History of Occupational Asbestos Use
Asbestos was seen as a valuable, useful product. It was added as a staple ingredient to countless manufactured products, including construction materials and automotive parts.
Industrial asbestos use began well before the turn of the 20th century, but it wasn’t widely used until World War II and postwar construction.
It’s estimated that 27.5 million workers were exposed to asbestos between 1949 and 1979. Nearly 70% of these workers were regularly exposed for at least two months of employment.
Anyone working on construction sites during this era was at risk of exposure. The closer you were to handling asbestos directly, the higher your risk of developing asbestos-related diseases later on.
Industries With the Greatest Risk
Dozens of industries used asbestos, but it was most commonly used in construction and manufacturing. Between 70% and 80% of asbestos consumption has been attributed to the construction industry, whether industrial, commercial, or residential. It was added as a staple ingredient to countless products, including construction materials and automotive parts.
Asbestos Use Today
For the most part, new manufacturing and construction projects in North America no longer use asbestos. By the early 1980s, asbestos-containing products (ACMs) were virtually excluded from industrial applications. However, some workers are still at risk today.
Workers who renovate and demolish old buildings could be exposed to asbestos if they don’t know it is present beforehand.
Additionally, first responders like firefighters, police officers and paramedics may be forced into risky situations when they enter old buildings being destroyed by fire or other threats.
One of the largest occupational groups still at risk is our nation’s veterans. Though older military assets and buildings have been cleared of asbestos products, active duty members continue to face threats of asbestos exposure overseas.
Auto mechanics working on older vehicles built with asbestos-lined brakes and engine parts are also at risk of continued exposure, including both civilian and military auto technicians.