Asbestos was once widely used in many American work sites. The peak period for utilizing asbestos-based products was from the 1920s until the 1980s. Health risks from work site asbestos exposure were strongly suspected by World War II when work sites were full of materials containing asbestos.
Asbestos exposure at job sites threatened workers, including those who mined the mineral, factory employees creating products containing asbestos and workers installing asbestos materials.
Controlling Asbestos in Work Sites
Workplace authorities like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began controlling asbestos use in 1971, but it was a slow process. Unfortunately, over a 7-decade span, millions of unsuspecting people were exposed to asbestos in their work sites. Now, many of those innocent workers have developed asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma—a deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Most people who develop mesothelioma experienced work site asbestos exposure. Airborne asbestos fibers steadily filled many work environments.
Many workers were exposed to asbestos dust on daily basis, increasing the likelihood of them inhaling asbestos fibers. Once asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested into the lungs or abdomen, they can never be expelled. Over time, this causes severe tissue damage that can trigger cancer.
Work Sites With Asbestos Exposure
It’s nearly impossible to list every American work site exposing workers to asbestos—there were just that many places. Asbestos was thought to be a miracle material. It was lightweight, added strength to products and was easy to use. Asbestos was chemically stable when added to almost every substance.
Manufacturers perceived that the best qualities of asbestos were that it was resistant to fire, thermally inert and non-corrosive. Asbestos also didn’t conduct electricity and was non-soluble in water. Further, asbestos was widely available and extremely affordable.
These product properties allowed asbestos products into homes, factories, trains, ships and automobiles. Many schools used asbestos products making even a teacher’s work site dangerous from long-term asbestos exposure. Work sites contained asbestos in everything from wallboard to paint.
Just because you didn’t directly handle asbestos doesn’t necessarily mean you weren’t at risk. Many job sites also put workers at risk of secondary asbestos exposure when workers who directly handled asbestos interacted with other workers.
High-Risk Work Sites
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) classifies over 75 worker groups who were at risk to asbestos exposure in their work sites. The NIOSH identified the highest at-risk work sites and employment roles.
Top work sites that exposed workers to airborne asbestos fibers included:
- Asbestos mines
- Factories that were making asbestos-based products
- Construction work sites that used asbestos-containing products
- Industrial work sites that employed asbestos for insulation and fireproofing
- Ships and shipyards with asbestos products installed from bow to stern
- Power generation plants that used asbestos for heat control
- Textile mills that spun asbestos fibers into fabrics
- Demolition work sites that contained old asbestos products
Asbestos is relatively safe and stable when it remains in the ground or after asbestos-based products are installed and sealed. Health risks associated with asbestos exposure increase when its fibers are disturbed. Exposure occurs when asbestos is dug out at mine work sites, transported, turned into secondary products and installed in work sites.
Asbestos is a malleable material. It’s easily dislodged from a stable form and quickly turns into fiber masses. Asbestos dust clouds can be hard to see in a work site, preventing workers from being able to protect themselves. Many unprotected workers spent months and years at their work sites where they regularly inhaled and ingested asbestos particles.
Although most of today’s worksites are asbestos-free, it’s the individuals who were placed at risk decades ago who are most at-risk of developing mesothelioma today. While immediate workplace asbestos dangers may be gone, workers who are long since retired are now suffering health consequences.
Many employers and product producers who put workers at risk for developing mesothelioma are now being held accountable.
Compensation for Asbestos Exposure on Work Sites
If you developed mesothelioma from asbestos exposure in your work site, you may be eligible for compensation. You may receive payment for your suffering, lost income and medical expenses. You can also file a lawsuit for punitive damages. Families can claim on behalf of members with mesothelioma or initiate wrongful death lawsuits.
For more information on mesothelioma and work site asbestos exposure, contact our Justice Support Team today.