Asbestos exposure has been linked to the development of serious respiratory diseases and cancers, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other conditions. For nearly 100 years, asbestos was one of the most commonly used materials in industries such as construction, shipbuilding and manufacturing.
It wasn't until the mid-20th century that researchers officially established the connection between asbestos exposure and serious respiratory conditions (although evidence was presented as early as the 1920s), but by then, millions of workers had already been exposed to asbestos fibers in the workplace and in other locations. While federal asbestos exposure limits were imposed in 1972, an estimated 10,000 people in the United States continue to pass away each year from asbestos-related illnesses.
Where Asbestos Exposure Can Occur
Asbestos exposure can occur in many different settings, with certain occupations, products, jobsites and locations at a particularly high risk of exposure. Common locations and products that have involved asbestos are outlined in the sections listed below.
Workers from practically all trades may have been exposed to asbestos fibers while on the job. Drywall tapers, electricians, firefighters, auto mechanics and many other occupations may be at risk for asbestos exposure.
Thousands of products were manufactured using asbestos fibers, as the material was known to be extremely strong and resistant to heat and fire. Asbestos may be found in insulation, drywall, ceiling and floor tiles, cements, paint and more.
Asbestos exposure may occur while on the job. Many workplaces utilized asbestos in their products and facilities, placing millions at risk for exposure on a daily basis. Learn more about where asbestos was found on the following jobsites.
Common jobsites containing asbestos
Asbestos was used in nearly every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, mainly for insulation purposes inside ships, vehicles and aircraft from the early 1900s until the 1970s. Thousands of veterans have since suffered asbestos-related illnesses due to asbestos exposure during their service.
Find more about asbestos exposure in the Navy
Exposure that occurs outdoors due to the presence of naturally occurring asbestos or asbestos fibers that have been released into the air as a result of mining or a natural disaster is referred to as environmental asbestos exposure. The state of California is home to some of the largest naturally occurring deposits of asbestos, such as the Clear Creek Management Area and the El Dorado Hills community. In the state of Montana the small town Libby has been greatly affected by an asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine that operated and processed ore until 1992.
In New York City when the World Trade Center towers were attacked on September 11, 2001, a total of 2,000 tons of asbestos were released into the surrounding area. Some of the first responders have even been diagnosed with and passed away from mesothelioma, which usually takes decades to develop following asbestos exposure. Another case of accidental environmental asbestos exposure took place in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The costly hurricane damaged thousands of older asbestos-contaminated homes and raised many concerns about asbestos exposure during hurricane cleanup efforts.
If asbestos materials are removed from a home or structure, there is a high risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers if proper asbestos abatement procedures are not followed. It is important to adhere to federal safety regulations regarding the removal and disposal of asbestos to minimize health risks.
Information About Asbestos
The term "asbestos" has been given to six naturally occurring mineral fibers. The asbestos fibers that compose these minerals cannot be seen by the naked eye once separated, as the fibers typically measure less than 50 to 70 nanometers in width. Their small size allows the fibers to lodge deep into delicate body tissues if inhaled or ingested, which makes asbestos exposure hazardous to human health.
Health Risks of Asbestos Exposure
Exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers can cause permanent damage to the lungs and other body organs and lead to the development of asbestos-related cancers. Symptoms of asbestos diseases may not appear until 10 to 50 years after exposure has occurred. Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year and about 2,000 to 3,200 asbestos-related lung cancer deaths are recorded annually. And an estimated 200,000 people in the United States are currently living with asbestosis, an inflammatory condition of the lung tissue caused by asbestos exposure. Many other cancers and serious conditions have been linked to asbestos exposure. The conditions may be found below.
|Lung Cancer||Lung Disease|
|Other Cancers||Other Related Conditions|
Were you or someone you know exposed to asbestos? Would you like more information about asbestos and the health risks of exposure? Contact our Patient Advocates by calling (800) 615-2270.