Once you develop a lung disease and receive a diagnosis of a serious respiratory disorder, it is important to try to remember and recapture your past and see if you have been exposed to deadly asbestos where you have worked in the past. Keep in mind that secondary exposure can be just as harmful so regular screenings are advised.
It is up to you to connect the dots and understand the connection by identifying the link between working in a dusty environment without protective masks and your current diagnosis. As we know that asbestos exposure poses a serious threat to our health by causing severe respiratory disorders such as:
What is the primary source of asbestos exposure?
Asbestos fibers have been utilized in the manufacturing of several domestic, commercial, as well as industrial products due to its unique property of heat insulation and fire retardation. It can be found in insulation, ceilings, roofing and flooring tiles, cement, paint, and drywall. As a result, millions of workers were put at risk of asbestos exposure. Workers at factories, shipyards, and occupations involving manual labor in construction or other trades are more likely to have been exposed to asbestos on the job. As the US military relied on asbestos products, particularly on Navy ships, the veterans are at equally high risk of having been exposed to asbestos during their service.
You are likely to have been exposed to asbestos if you have worked in the following:
Numerous products used in building and repairing ships and other military equipment contained asbestos. Apart from that, you might have also been exposed to inhaling asbestos fibers if you worked in industrial settings.
Another possible source - secondary asbestos exposure
Sometimes, people can develop asbestos-related conditions without working around the dangerous mineral. This is referred to as secondary asbestos exposure or indirect exposure and happens when an asbestos-exposed worker takes home asbestos fibers that have settled on work clothes, hair, and skin. This is as harmful as firsthand exposure. During the past century, men worked directly with asbestos products while doing labor jobs. Most companies did not require employees to change their clothes after the work shift ended. Thus, significant amounts of toxic asbestos fibers would be carried home, where family members unknowingly inhaled them. Women, who washed their husband's work clothes, as well their children were more likely to fall sick because of secondary exposure.
Secondary exposure accounts for approximately 8% of all diagnosed asbestos-related cancer cases annually. There are numerous other diseases that secondary asbestos exposure may result in, most of which affect the lungs and the airways. Following inhalation or ingestion, asbestos fibers can easily travel through the bloodstream and reach various organs and tissues in the body, where they will gradually cause inflammation and scarring, thereby giving way to a disease within 20 to 50 years from the first exposure.
Occupations at high-risk for asbestos exposure
- Construction workers: Before the 1980s, most products used in construction contained asbestos, therefore, building demolition crews and home renovators are at risk of asbestos exposure. According to the estimates from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, nearly 25% of people who died from asbestosis had jobs in the construction industry.
- Industrial workers: Industrial workers include foremen, chemical workers, mechanics, trade laborers, and machinery operators. These workers were at risk of asbestos exposure in the paper industry, textile mills, and factories that manufacture gaskets, insulation, and fireproofing.
- Power plant workers: The most common sources of asbestos exposure were heat-resistant products such as pipe insulation and fireproofing spray. Nearly 33% of power plant workers had asbestos in their mucus samples, according to a study.
- Shipyard workers: Boiler workers and people working at the construction, demolition, and rebuilding of vessels were highly exposed to asbestos.
- Miners: Asbestos mining in the United States was terminated in 2002, but miners and asbestos plant workers have been exposed to high concentrations of asbestos regularly as certain minerals namely talc and vermiculite contains asbestos. In addition, miners use equipment that contains insulation and gaskets made up of asbestos.
- Automobile mechanics: Most parts of automobiles such as brakes, heat seals, and clutches contain asbestos and when these parts are disintegrated, asbestos fibers become airborne and even settle on the clothes of auto mechanics. Repair stations often have very poor air circulation, which makes it even more dangerous as these free-floating asbestos fibers get easily inhaled by auto mechanics.
- Carpenters: Carpenters who were involved in construction projects done before 1980 had to handle asbestos sheets and cut them into sizes required for various applications. They were also involved in the remodeling of old houses and commercial buildings that were constructed using asbestos structures, which released a lot of asbestos dust into the air.
- Engineers: Engineers were usually exposed to asbestos indirectly while supervising the workers involved in installing the asbestos products in their designs.
- Electricians: Electricians get exposed to asbestos fibers during the repair of electrical appliances that have asbestos or while drilling walls to install new wires.
- Oil refinery workers: These workers were often involved in handling equipment used in the process of crude oil refining and tend to inhale asbestos fibers released from the damaged portion of their protective clothing.
- Plumbers: Plumbers come in contact with asbestos fibers when they cut or drill into pipes having insulation made of asbestos. Other insulated products such as ducts, tanks, and boilers may contain asbestos and can release asbestos fibers during maintenance.
- Railroad workers: Employees working in and around railroad shops or repair shops were likely to inhale asbestos dust as asbestos-containing materials were cut or smoothened releasing the dust onto their clothes. Even railroad workers who were not involved in repair tasks were likely to have been exposed as asbestos was widely used on trains.
Claiming compensation for asbestos-related diseases if you have been exposed on the job