For many years, many industries used asbestos for a wide range of uses and applications. Asbestos is resistant to extreme temperatures and most chemicals. It does not evaporate into the air nor dissolve in water. It has no smell or odor and does not migrate through soil. In short, it appeared to be a wondrous material with limitless practical uses. However, as the research began to show the dangers of inhaling asbestos fibers on the job site, it became clear that many employees were working in industries at risk for asbestos exposure.
For decades, millions of workers in occupational situations were inhaling asbestos fibers day after day, year after year, which had the potential to kill them with no idea of the dangers. Those working with insulation and piping materials were most at risk, but its use was pervasive, and its dangers eventually became apparent.
Industries at Risk for Asbestos Exposure Initially Ignored Inherent Dangers
Naturally, asbestos miners were at the greatest risk, as they were working directly with the material on a regular basis. But there were many jobs where workers were not even aware they were being exposed to asbestos fibers, whether they knew of the dangers or not. Initially, there were no warnings, regulations, or precautions taken, meaning workers were inhaling the hazardous material freely and without reservation.
As the safety standards improved late in the 20th century, the threat remained. Industrial workers continued to be at risk, even as that became clear to business owners and operators. A lengthy paper trail exposed industry executives’ wrongdoing. Asbestos attorneys like those at Cooney & Conway, LLP. have been fighting to ensure the voices of those workers harmed and the families so many of them have left behind are heard and compensated.
If you or a loved one works in one of the top ten industries at risk for asbestos exposure, always keep safety at the forefront of all occupational activities. And if you or a family member work or worked in one of these industries and have contracted mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses, contact the asbestos attorneys at Cooney & Conway, LLP.
Top 10 Industries at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
The use of asbestos reached various trades that are still prominent today. Below are industries and jobs that have had some exposure to asbestos over the years and should be assessed by an asbestos litigation specialist right away.
- Construction: Asbestos was widely used in many aspects of the construction process. Employees working with insulation or pipe fitting are most at risk, including drywall installers, electricians, insulators, plumbers, pipefitters, boilermakers, and brick masons.
- Firefighters: Though it is an incredible fire-retardant material, asbestos can become airborne as the surrounding materials burn. Firefighters often charge into older buildings containing an array of dangerous materials and compounds.
- Auto mechanics: Asbestos has been used in brake linings, gaskets, and clutches for decades. Because mechanics cannot tell if a part contains asbestos by looking at it, anyone working on cars should assume that it does.
- Railroad: Railroad workers are still commonly diagnosed with mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos through insulation materials on pipes, brakes, boilers, and gaskets.
- Shipbuilding: Workers from U.S. shipyards have experienced an abnormally high amount of mesothelioma cases after exposure to asbestos from 1950-64. Shipyard jobs that exposed workers to asbestos included machinists, pipefitters, electricians, boilermakers, and painters.
- Farming: With the extensive use of farming equipment operations and maintenance over the years, the use of asbestos has shown up as an issue for many farmers, including dairy and poultry farmers who need certain equipment to raise and harvest the produce from their animals. More animal harvesting farmers have had more exposure, while crop farmers' exposure has been limited only to farm equipment maintenance periodically. At the time of asbestos being used in farming, there were between 2 and 3 million farmers across the country working and using equipment that was lined with asbestos regularly. Unfortunately, this exposure could have also been transferred secondhand through the home with dust from the equipment on clothing.
- HVAC Technicians: While new systems do not use asbestos, HVAC technicians who have performed services on old systems and entered older homes where asbestos was used in insulation have risked exposure. Depending on how long they have been in the industry and how many homes they have entered over the course of their career. Those who have been in the industry for over ten years have probably experienced much more exposure to asbestos due to the age of the homes. Newer homes would not have the risk that older ones do with asbestos, reducing current exposure to HVAC technicians significantly. Older homes, in most cases, have updated their homes and removed the asbestos, but in some places, this was only a recommendation as opposed to a requirement.
- Hairdressers: Over the last couple of decades, hairdressers and beauticians have risked exposure to asbestos through the use of hairdryers and other hair items used frequently. Old equipment made at least in the late 1970s, asbestos from the equipment is released into the air in the environment. While customer exposure is limited, a constant release of asbestos into the air can cause health concerns and risks to the hairdressers who have been using this equipment daily and for years. While it may be rare to find equipment today with this asbestos, there could be some hairdryers in some home salons left with asbestos in them. Beauticians that have been in the industry for several decades have a higher risk rate than others and should be aware of the potential exposure.
- Factory Workers: Working in plants and textile factories in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s is an industry where asbestos was used frequently in the machines, releasing toxins into the air. Those who worked on these machines daily in this environment, consistently breathing in these toxins from the asbestos have increased exposure to asbestos. Even when the machines they were using were serviced for maintenance and upgrades, the use of asbestos was prevalent all the way through the 1990s. Asbestos could have even been linked to the safety uniforms and gloves used to handle these machines while working. Depending on how long each person worked in that environment and how much they used could be more damaging than others.
- Healthcare Workers: Through the 1970s and even part of the 1980s, some of the hospital equipment used asbestos for its practicality since it was able to withstand extreme temperatures. In an area where temperatures can change significantly from one environment to the other, that was essential for earlier equipment models. Those using the equipment, such as healthcare workers, may have experienced exposure to asbestos. Depending on the type of equipment and the frequency of use, the exposure can vary.
Fighting Asbestos Exposure Today
With the knowledge about asbestos and the damage that it can do to those who are exposed, knowing how much exposure you had to it is essential. Even if you have not retired from your profession, you should still seek help determining the level of damage you have suffered from asbestos exposure. If you or a loved one works in one of the top ten industries at risk for asbestos exposure, potentially resulting in an illness, contact the asbestos litigation specialists at Cooney & Conway, LLP.