Asbestos is a mineral that has been widely used in construction and other industries for decades due to its insulating and fire-resistant properties. However, it has been proven to be a highly toxic substance that can cause serious health problems, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
There are six different types of asbestos: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Though there are differences in the various fibers’ potency, all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, meaning that they can cause cancer. Even though asbestos has been restricted in many countries, asbestos exposure is still a major public health concern, particularly in industries where asbestos was commonly used in the early years. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the United States still has not banned asbestos due to lobbying efforts by the asbestos industry.
Notably, over the course of the last several years, asbestos litigation has revealed that talc mines are also contaminated with asbestos fibers (despite industry’s best efforts to sweep this information under the rug). This article highlights industries at the most significant risk of asbestos exposure today.
Steel, paper and oil industries
Large premises where very hot systems were used—such as steel mills, aluminum mills, paper mills, and oil refineries—were a hotbed for asbestos. Asbestos was used to insulate hundreds of different types of products such as pipes, ducts, troughs, casts, and spouts that dealt with hot materials. It even was used in resins that were part of plastic components in electrical boards.
Even though asbestos is no longer used in those applications today, there are still premises that have not removed all of the asbestos in their buildings yet. Instead, companies keep it encapsulated, meaning that the asbestos is enclosed so the fibers don’t get into the air. As is described below, however, this can be a problem if improper removal, manipulation, or demolition occurs.
The construction sector is one of the industries at great risk of asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used in building projects largely until the 1970s. Even today, construction workers may encounter asbestos used in insulation, drywall, pipes, caulking, and even roofing of older buildings. If you suspect an older building may contain asbestos-containing materials that you have to manipulate, have it tested by an asbestos abatement company.
Demolition workers can also inhale asbestos fibers due to the dust generated from tearing down asbestos-containing products. And perhaps the scariest reality about exposure in the construction industry is that workers can unknowingly expose their families to this toxin because it can be brought home on work clothes if proper precautions are not taken.
Asbestos was commonly used all over ships due to its insulating and fire-resistant properties. As a result, shipyard workers are at a high risk of having inhaled asbestos fibers when they worked with asbestos-containing materials earlier in their careers. Shipyard workers who worked in the 1960s and 1970s are particularly at risk, as this was when asbestos use was at its peak. At Weinstein Caggiano, we have had many clients who worked in the navy or at shipyards who were exposed to asbestos from many different types of jobs and activities.
Asbestos was commonly used in the automotive industry in brake pads, linings, clutch facings, and gaskets. It was highly desirable in these products because the fibers acted as a binder to help hold the linings and pads together. Unfortunately, some brake products did not remove asbestos until even the early 2000s. As a result, auto mechanics and other workers in the automotive industry (even shade tree mechanics) are at risk of having inhaled asbestos fibers when repairing and servicing cars.
Asbestos exposure is a serious public health concern, and workers in certain industries are at a higher risk of exposure than others. It is essential for workers in these industries to be aware of the risks and to take the necessary precautions to help protect themselves from exposure to prevent serious health problems, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
Today, we are still uncovering more and more information about the contamination of talc with asbestos fibers and the companies who hid it. An increasing number of people are being diagnosed with mesothelioma or ovarian cancer whose only exposure was to talcum powder products, like baby powders or even cosmetics.
If you or your loved one suffer from an asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation by the companies who improperly exposed you. We are here to help answer your questions and investigate your claims.