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Who Are the People Most Likely to Be Exposed and Affected by Asbestos?

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People who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace, as well as U.S. veterans who served between 1935 and 1975, have the highest risk of developing a disease.

answered by Mark L. Rowe

Occupational asbestos exposure is most likely to result in a serious disease

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which has been extensively used by numerous industries in the U.S. since the early 1930s. Despite the fact that the executives of major companies such as Johns Manville or Bendix Corporation were well-aware of its toxic nature, the employment of asbestos has only ceased in the late 1970s, when it was officially deemed a known human carcinogen. Although people can be exposed to asbestos in multiple ways, occupational exposure entails the highest risk of developing a disease.


Between 1940 and 1978, over 11 million workers were exposed to asbestos on the job. According to the National Cancer Institute, industrial workers were by far the most frequently exposed group. These are only some of the occupational groups which are most likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, as the amount of asbestos they were in contact with on a regular basis was tremendous:

  • construction workers
  • asbestos miners
  • power plant workers
  • oil refinery workers
  • vermiculite miners
  • shipyard workers
  • insulators
  • millwrights
  • chemical technicians

However, it is worthy of note that people who currently have one of the jobs above are not at risk, since the use of asbestos is strictly regulated nowadays and appropriate safety measures are usually followed in the industries where it is still present.

In addition to workers, U.S. veterans who served between 1935 and 1975 were also exposed to asbestos. Over 10,000 veterans lose their lives annually to asbestos-related diseases. While all military branches have been in contact with asbestos in one way or another, the U.S. Navy is at highest risk. Due to its remarkable fire and friction resistance, insulating properties, durability and soundproofing properties, asbestos was found in large amounts on ships. From boilers to valves, there were over 300 asbestos-containing products on most Navy ships.

If you are a veteran exposed to asbestos while serving in the military or navy our experts are willing to provide you with a free asbestos screening.

Finally, there are three other types of asbestos exposure:

  • Household exposure. People can be exposed to asbestos-containing building products such as vinyl floor tiles, popcorn ceiling, insulation or roofing materials at home when remodeling operations are performed. Old products are particularly dangerous because fibers can be released into the air very easily when these items are disturbed. However, the risk of becoming ill is significantly lower than for occupational exposure.
  • Environmental exposure. This used to happen to people who lived in proximity to construction or mining sites which employed asbestos in their operations. Residents would inhale asbestos dust for various periods of time. Because asbestos occurs naturally, deposits of asbestos can also be accidentally disturbed in certain areas. Nowadays, environmental exposure is quite rare.
  • Secondary exposure. Asbestos fibers would be carried home on workers’ clothes, hair and skin due to the fact that they were not required to change clothes before returning home. Thus, their families would be indirectly exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos victims are eligible for financial compensation. If you or a family member suffers from mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis, we highly encourage you to contact Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. at (205) 328-9200Our diligent lawyers will help you recover the compensation you deserve.

We also Represent U.S. Veterans Exposed to Asbestos while Serving their Country

Other Related Questions

Secondary exposure occurs when a person is not in direct contact with a source of asbestos. It is equally dangerous as occupational asbestos exposure and can be either domestic or environmental.

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While inhaling asbestos fibers from old building materials can be as dangerous as occupational exposure, asbestos trust funds provide compensation mostly to former employees.

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Disability compensation is a financial benefit the VA pays out only to veterans with diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, or asbestosis. Therefore, a veteran is not eligible for it in the absence of a proper asbestos-related diagnosis.

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No. However, it is estimated that approximately 20% of people with a history of asbestos exposure will develop a disease. The risk increases with the frequency and duration of exposure.

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Veterans with lung disease, the most common health effect of asbestos exposure, may notice symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain. However, military asbestos exposure can result in other diseases as well, including kidney cancer.

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According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, over 75 occupational groups have been regularly exposed to high levels of asbestos in the workplace throughout the past century.

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