Asbestos exposure can happen in many places and settings. Even today, people are still being exposed to asbestos through old buildings and houses that were built prior to the early to mid 1980s. However, the majority of asbestos-related diseases stem from prolonged exposure which typically happened at job sites.
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Since asbestos has a strong ability to prevent corrosion and resist heat and fire, it was frequently used to build ships. From boiler insulation, hot water, pipes, and more, asbestos was used for a variety of reasons on ships, and in many times in areas that were not well ventilated.
The end result is that numerous ship workers have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and other illnesses associated with asbestos exposure.The highest majority of victims are those who were on ships during the Korean War and World War II.
During that time, doctors and scientists were uninformed of the devastating effects that asbestos exposure caused. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the dangers of asbestos were thoroughly investigated and taken more seriously.
Most ship workers exposed to asbestos have been Americans. Over 4 million Americans worked on ships during the World War II era and many of them worked as asbestos insulators.
California is the leading state for the most diagnosed cases of asbestos cancer. Along with having an overabundance of natural asbestos deposits in the state, California also has one of the largest coastlines in North America, making it a convenient place for shipyards.
Asbestos was used in power plants because of its ability to endure extremely high temperatures while preventing fires. It was used to cover machinery, pipes, boilers, and other products. This continued on through the early 1980s even though the dangerous effects of asbestos was already well-known.
Many power plant workers chose to wear protective gear and clothing to help avoid too much exposure, but even with protection, total asbestos exposure was unavoidable. Unfortunately, there were many major power plants that used asbestos spread throughout almost every state in the United States.
Metal Works Industry
Asbestos was used widely in factory machines because of its fireproof insulation. Many welders, steel mill employees, blacksmiths, and aluminum and iron factory employees experienced prolonged exposure. In addition to factory machines using asbestos, most plants were made using asbestos, as well as many of the products that employees used.
Metal workers would spend many hours per day working in plants and factories that were covered in asbestos. In turn, these workers have a heightened risk of developing mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction work is not only one of most dangerous occupations in the world, but workers also have a high risk of asbestos exposure. Even with strict regulations on asbestos use, many construction workers still frequently work on homes and buildings that were constructed prior to the EPA’s regulations.
Construction work encompasses a variety of different jobs functions, most of which come with the risk of asbestos exposure, including:
- Tearing down walls
- Home repairs
- Sanding, dusting
- Cutting through wood
- Carpentry and drywall work
- Setting and cutting tile, and more
Similar to construction workers, firefighters also have one of the most dangerous occupations. They’re also still likely to face asbestos exposure in homes and buildings that were built with the dangerous minerals prior to the EPA’s strict regulations.
Firefighters today may not know that they’ve developed an asbestos-related illness until decades later, sometimes up to 50 years later. It’s crucial that firefighters always get regular medical check ups.
Schools and Homes
According the the EPA, there are over 130,000 elementary, middle, and high schools in the U.S. that contain asbestos. Since the typical age of a school building is over 40 years old, millions of children and teachers are exposed each year to a slight amount of asbestos. Only schools built after the late 1970s to mid 1980s are asbestos-free.
Today, schools must be inspected routinely in order to develop an effective management plan for asbestos exposure. However, per the National Center for Health Statistics, school teachers, specifically elementary school teachers, run a risk of developing mesothelioma.
Older homes built prior to the mid to early 1980s may contain asbestos. Prior to the EPA’s regulations, numerous manufacturers and companies used asbestos heavily in insulation, ceiling tiles, vinyl flooring, appliances, caulking, window seals, walls, paints, and more.
Millions of homes across the nation that were built with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are still occupied by families. Seek the help of a state-certified asbestos inspector if you live in an older home, as asbestos fibers cannot be detected by the human eye. Until then, make sure to never start any renovations or heavy-duty cleaning projects as these activities can stir up asbestos fibers.
Not only do oil refinery workers face occupational hazards because of the highly flammable materials used, but many workers had to also face prolonged asbestos exposure.
Prior to EPA regulations, asbestos was used to insulate a multitude of things in oil refineries, ranging from ovens, roasters, tanks, boilers, furnaces, pumps, and more. Oil refinery workers were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, and although it helped them to prevent fires and burns, it also put them in danger.
The paper manufacturing industry has long used ACMs in paper mills. These facilities, especially older paper mills, are full of equipment that generates high temperatures or requires friction-reducing materials. ACMs are still used in paper-manufacturing machinery, such as drying machines.
Older paper mills also used asbestos in insulation in boilers and pipes. Further, these mills were built with cement, paint, ceiling and floor tiles, roofing materials, countertops, and siding which contained asbestos.
As recently as 2015, asbestos was found in certain brands of children’s crayons and toy products. Per the Environmental Working Group Action Fund (EWG), the following crayon brands, found with asbestos, were shelved and on display in a number of popular stores:
- Saban Power Rangers Super Megaforce Crayons
- Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons
- Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Crayons
- Amscan Crayons
The following children’s toy products were found to have asbestos:
- Edu Science Deluxe Forensics Lab Kit
- Inside Intelligence Secret Spy Kit
In 2009, another children’s product, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation toy kit, was found to contain asbestos. Television station CBS and a number of major retailers settled a class-action asbestos lawsuit involving the product. It’s since been removed from store shelves and is no longer manufactured.
Second-Hand Asbestos Exposure
Occupational and direct environmental exposure to asbestos are the principal means in which the toxic fibers enter the body and trigger asbestos-related illnesses. However, people can be exposed to asbestos in other ways, usually through second-hand exposure, also known as secondary exposure.
In contrast to occupational exposure, which tends to affect male workers who were employed in shipyards, power plants, and other enterprises that used asbestos in large quantities, second-hand exposure is more prevalent in women and children.
Secondary exposure generally occurred when men returned home from work in industrial job sites or other places where asbestos exposure took place and brought the fibers along on their work clothes, skin and hair. Consequently, women who came in contact with the asbestos-covered clothes while cleaning or handling them created small clouds of the fibers and inhaled them.
Children were also exposed to asbestos fibers when they hugged or played with their fathers, brothers, or family friends who unwittingly brought asbestos fibers home on their coveralls or other clothing worn for work.
Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
Symptoms of asbestos exposure may differ according to what part of the body the asbestos fibers have attacked.
Pleural exposure is the most common type, with symptoms consisting of:
- Coughing and hacking, usually with phlegm
- Strong feelings of the chest tightening
- Difficulty in breathing
- Pneumonia (in some cases)
- Weight loss
- Crackling noises in the lungs when inhaling
Peritoneal symptoms of asbestos exposure include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Blood clotting
- Swelling in the abdominal area
- Bowel blockage
Pericardial symptoms of asbestos exposure include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart murmurs
- Night sweats
- Thickening of the pericardium
- Difficulties with breathing, especially when lying flat
Getting Legal Help
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Page Reviewed and Edited by Mesothelioma Attorney Paul Danziger
Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering hundreds of millions of dollars for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.