Asbestos causes mesothelioma, a fact that has been well established since the 1980’s and even before, but about 3,000 people in America are diagnosed and treated for mesothelioma every year. The reasons that asbestos is still used today are inexcusable and convoluted, but it is essential to understand how people are exposed to asbestos in order to promote safer conditions and justice for victims.
Asbestos at Work
Thanks to its tensile strength and ability to refract heat, asbestos was mined and used in nearly every building, vehicle part, and industrial appliance during and after World War II. However, the correlation between asbestos and mesothelioma was not established in courtrooms until the early 1980s. For this reason, there is still a significant amount of asbestos that can be found in vehicles, appliances and buildings today which poses a significant threat to public health.
Notably, there are specific fields of employment that historically have a higher risk of exposing workers to asbestos and, in some cases, still do. These occupations include:
- Miners – Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that must be extracted from rocks.
- Shipyard Workers – Asbestos was commonly used in insulation, pipe fittings and hydraulic systems aboard military and commercial seacraft.
- Asbestos Abatement Workers – Mesothelioma and asbestosis in abatement workers is mostly a result of negligence or faulty protective gear.
- Mill Workers
- Automotive/Aircraft Workers – Though older vehicles and aircrafts may have been removed of asbestos, parts that are used to repair them that were manufactured before 1980 may contain asbestos.
- Factory Workers
- Electricians – Electrical wires used to be insulated with asbestos.
- Painters – Plaster and paint used prior to the 1980s was mixed with asbestos.
- Railroad Workers
- Power Plant Workers
- Coal and Petroleum Workers
- Textile Workers
- Construction Workers
- Bricklayers and Masons – Firebricks used in fireplaces were mixed with asbestos.
- Chemical Workers
Other industries that risk exposure are:
- Demolitionists – Demolitionists are at a particularly high risk of asbestos exposure because they regularly have to deconstruct buildings that contain asbestos, which causes the fibers and dust that cause cancer to be released into the air. Demolition of asbestos containing buildings is regulated by the EPA under the Clean Air Act.
- Maintenance Workers
- US Naval Veterans – Naval veterans who contracted mesothelioma during their tenure may be able to sue outside of the normal statute of limitations in maritime law, as outlined in the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act).
- Tile Setters
- Sheet Metal Workers
The US Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that over one million workers are currently exposed to asbestos every year.