Occupational Asbestos Exposure

Millions working in industrial, blue-collar, or military jobs during the 20th century were exposed to asbestos. Asbestos was widely used since it was cheap and durable. However, asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma. After the health risks were known, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) limited how asbestos could be used.

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Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace

Worksites across the United States relied on asbestos-containing products for decades.

Versatile, strong, and resistant to fire, water, and sound, asbestos was described as a “miracle mineral”.

Yet, the general public was unaware of an awful secret: Occupational asbestos exposure could cause deadly health problems, including cancers like mesothelioma.

Only the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products knew this, but they hid the facts to keep making money.

As a result, millions of workers — along with their families and loved ones — were regularly exposed to asbestos and put at risk of serious asbestos-related illnesses.

Deaths from Mesothelioma

It is believed that mesothelioma alone causes 43,000 worldwide deaths each year, according to a report published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Workers exposed to asbestos decades ago should be aware of the consequences and take action if they believe they are suffering from asbestos-related health problems.

These workers can seek life-extending medical treatments and may be able to take legal action against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products to receive compensation.

Occupational Asbestos Exposure Quick Facts

  • Between 1940 and 1979, it is estimated that 27.5 million workers were exposed to asbestos, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
  • The ATSDR also notes that occupational asbestos exposure peaked in the 1960s and 1970s in western countries like the United States.
  • According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there is no safe level of occupational asbestos exposure. That said, the more asbestos a worker is exposed to, the higher their risk of diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer.

At-Risk Occupations

  • Aircraft Mechanics
  • Asbestos Plant Workers
  • Blacksmiths
  • Boilermakers
  • Carpenters
  • Cement Plant Workers
  • Construction Workers
  • Deckhands & Sailors
  • Electricians
  • Factory Workers
  • Firefighters
  • HVAC Mechanics
  • Insulators
  • Iron Workers
  • Machinists
  • Miners
  • Oil Refinery Workers
  • Plumbers
  • Power Plant Workers
  • Railroad Workers
  • Roofers
  • Shipyard Workers
  • Steel Mill Workers
  • Teachers
  • Textile Mill Workers
  • Welders

How Were Workers Exposed to Asbestos on the Job?

Workers who develop asbestos-related diseases may not realize how they were exposed on the job. Many who worked in jobs such as mining, shipbuilding, manufacturing, and construction personally handled asbestos as part of their job duties on a frequent, or even daily, basis.

Workers who moved between departments, inspected job sites, or worked for suppliers may have also been exposed even though they didn’t directly work with asbestos-containing products. If asbestos fibers were in the air, anyone nearby could be at risk.

Because of these reasons, anyone who worked in an asbestos-related job could be at risk of deadly health issues today.

High-Risk Occupations for Asbestos Exposure

Some workers physically handled asbestos on a regular basis through the equipment they operated, the products they used, or the personal protective equipment they wore.

Workers may have come in contact with asbestos in dozens of different occupations. Here is a breakdown of a few jobs with a high risk of occupational asbestos exposure.

Some high-risk occupations include:

  • Aircraft mechanics
  • Asbestos abatement
  • Asbestos products manufacturing
  • Auto mechanics
  • Blacksmiths
  • Boilermakers
  • Brick and stonemasons
  • Bulldozer operators
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Crane operators
  • Deckhands and sailors
  • Draftsmen
  • Drill press operators
  • Drywall tapers
  • Electricians
  • Factory workers
  • Firefighters
  • Insulators
  • Mechanics
  • Miners
  • Oil refinery workers
  • Power plant workers
  • Railroad workers
  • Roofers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Welders

Workers can still be exposed today if older asbestos-based products are found on their job and the risks are not assessed.

High-Risk Worksites for Occupational Asbestos Exposure

Many worksites used asbestos in large amounts and on a frequent basis.

Asbestos exposure in the workplace put employees at these high-risk sites at risk of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.

Worksites with risk of asbestos exposure include:

  • Aircraft maintenance facilities
  • Aluminum plants
  • Automobile assembly plants
  • Automobile repair shops
  • Brewing facilities
  • Chemical Plants
  • Construction sites
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Military bases
  • Mines
  • Oil Refineries
  • Power plants
  • Railroads
  • Shipyards
  • Steel mills

However, not everyone employed on these sites had the same level of risk.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), those who were exposed to a lot of asbestos over longer periods of time have a higher risk of developing cancer or other illnesses than those who weren’t.

The level of asbestos exposure risk depends on the type of day-to-day work someone performed.

Occupational Asbestos Exposure Risks

Occupational exposure to asbestos can cause workers to develop deadly health problems, including mesothelioma, decades after they were exposed.

When asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed, they never leave the body because they are too strong to be broken down.

Instead, the fibers get stuck in healthy cell tissue, slowly causing irritation. This irritation may lead to inflammation, scarring, and cancer.

Learn more about common asbestos diseases below.


Mesothelioma is a deadly and incredibly aggressive cancer. It can develop in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles 20-50 years after someone is first exposed to asbestos.

Did You Know?
Mesothelioma is particularly dangerous because it is very rare — with only 3,000 cases diagnosed each year — and its symptoms are usually mild at first. This makes it very difficult to diagnose and treat.

Adding to the problem is that mesothelioma spreads rapidly. Many victims are not diagnosed until the cancer has reached its later stages, making treatment options even more limited.

Lung Cancer

Asbestos fibers that are inhaled can also settle into the lungs rather than in the lung lining. If this happens, it can increase the worker’s risk of asbestos lung cancer.

According to the ACS, most cases of asbestos-related lung cancer typically occur 15 years or longer after the victim was exposed to asbestos.

The ACS also notes that the risk of lung cancer is increased depending on how much asbestos a worker was exposed to.

Other Cancers

Asbestos exposure has also been linked to other forms of cancer.

These cancers include:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Larynx (voice box) cancer
  • Ovarian cancer

According to the ACS, asbestos also may possibly cause colon, rectum, throat, and stomach cancer. More research is needed to confirm these links.

Non-Cancerous Diseases

Occupational asbestos exposure can also cause non-cancerous diseases, some of which can be just as harmful.

Asbestosis – Asbestosis is a chronic disease only caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. According to OSHA, it develops after asbestos fibers cause scar tissue to build up in the lungs, making it harder for the victim to breathe. Complications from asbestosis can lead to death.

Pleural effusion – This occurs when fluid builds up in the lining of the lungs. Pleural effusions may lead to a dry cough, chest pain, or difficulty breathing.

Pleural plaques – Pleural plaques occur in up to 60% of workers exposed to asbestos, according to the Merck Manual, a renowned medical textbook. Though pleural plaques are non-threatening, they may be a sign of mesothelioma.

Anyone exposed to asbestos on the job and who is experiencing possible symptoms of the diseases listed above should tell their doctor about their exposure history.

A History of Occupational Asbestos Use

Before asbestos was widely known as a health hazard, it was a staple ingredient of countless manufactured products, construction materials, and vehicle parts.

Yet the mineral wasn’t widely used until World War II and postwar construction.

In fact, 70% to 80% of asbestos consumption has been attributed to the construction industry, whether industrial, commercial, or residential.

Although asbestos manufacturers did their best to hide the truth about their products’ health risks and cover up their negligence, eventually the indisputable medical evidence became clear.

Asbestos Use Today

In the U.S., asbestos is almost never used on job sites today due to the obvious dangers.

However, some workers are still at risk today, including:

  • Active military members serving overseas, as they could be exposed when older, asbestos-containing structures explode.
  • Auto mechanics working on older vehicles built with asbestos-lined brakes and engine parts are also at risk of continued exposure.
  • First responders like firefighters, police officers, and paramedics may come in contact with asbestos when they enter old buildings damaged by fires, cave-ins, or natural disasters.
  • Workers who renovate and demolish old buildings may be exposed to asbestos if they don’t know beforehand that the mineral is present.

Even worse, asbestos is still not totally banned in the U.S. today. As long as asbestos-containing products are used, there will always be a risk of exposure and deadly health risks.

Next Steps for Victims of Occupational Asbestos Exposure

If you were employed on a worksite that used asbestos and have developed an asbestos-related disease, you have legal rights to compensation.

Today, many companies are liable for costs associated with illness and disease caused by asbestos exposure.

Workers may be able to access compensation by taking legal action against manufacturers of asbestos-containing products.

To learn more about the legal options that may be available to you — start your free case review today.

  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (n.d.). Asbestos Toxicity. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=29&po;=7
  2. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Asbestos and Cancer Risk. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/asbestos.html
  3. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Survival Rates for Mesothelioma. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-statistics.html
  4. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Asbestos and Cancer Risk. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/asbestos.html
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013, October 17). NIOSH Study of Firefighters Finds Increased Rates of Cancer. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-10-17-13.html
  6. Cleveland Clinic. (2016, March 28). Asbestos Still Lurks in Older Buildings: Are Your Lungs at Risk? Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/asbestos-still-lurks-older-buildings-lungs-risk/
  7. Haas, K. (2019, December 9). Shipyard workers, Navy veterans may have been exposed to asbestos. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.unionleader.com/news/health/shipyard-workers-navy-veterans-may-have-been-exposed-to-asbestos/article_f4884828-a162-593c-8206-5ca8e2655dda.html
  8. Lara, A. R. (n.d.). Asbestos-Related Pleural Disease. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/environmental-pulmonary-diseases/asbestos-related-pleural-disease
  9. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Asbestos. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/
  10. Virta, R. L. (2006). Worldwide Asbestos Supply and Consumption Trends from 1900 through 2003. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2006/1298/c1298.pdf

Easier Than It May Seem

Your individual situation may merit an actual lawsuit. However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Trusts have been set up to benefit victims of mesothelioma in such a way that lawsuits and court appearances aren’t needed. Contact us today and you’ll see how easy it can be to get the compensation you deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can file a mesothelioma claim?

A person who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma – as well as their spouse, child, or family member – may be able to file a claim to recover compensation from manufacturers of asbestos products. If the mesothelioma patient passes away, a family member or estate representative may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

How much money is in the asbestos trust fund?

An estimated $30 billion has been set aside in asbestos trust funds to compensate mesothelioma patients. Many companies that made asbestos products later filed for bankruptcy, so they created these trust funds to pay out future mesothelioma claims. If the company responsible for your asbestos exposure no longer exists, you may be entitled to money from their trust fund.

How do I file a mesothelioma claim?

To file a mesothelioma claim, contact an attorney who is experienced with these types of lawsuits. They will know where and when to file your claim, how to build the strongest case possible, and the best way to maximize compensation on your behalf.

What is the statute of limitations on mesothelioma claims?

The statute of limitations (deadline to file) for mesothelioma claims will vary depending on the state in which you file. In many states, it’s 2-3 years from the date of the mesothelioma diagnosis – though it may be longer if the mesothelioma patient has passed away. A mesothelioma lawyer can make sure your claim is filed within the required time frame.

How long do mesothelioma claims take?

Every mesothelioma claim is different, with circumstances and factors that are unique to that mesothelioma patient’s story. Though there’s no way to predict exactly how long a claim will take, an experienced mesothelioma attorney will ensure the process is handled as efficiently as possible.

Many claimants start to receive compensation in as few as 90 days after settling their mesothelioma claims.

What is the average payout for mesothelioma?

There is no guarantee of compensation when you file a mesothelioma claim, and countless factors affect how much money you might be able to recover (assuming your case settles). That said, 95% of these lawsuits are settled out of court, and the average settlement amount is $1-1.4 million.

How much is my mesothelioma claim worth?

Your mesothelioma case value depends on the specifics of your situation, such as the duration of your asbestos exposure, and the total cost of your mesothelioma treatment (as well as travel expenses and other related losses). The best way to figure out how much your claim is worth is to speak with a mesothelioma lawyer.

What type of mesothelioma claim do I have?

Most mesothelioma claims fall under one of four categories:

  • Personal injury: You were exposed to asbestos (often through your job, or your loved one’s), so you file a lawsuit against the company that made the asbestos products.
  • Asbestos trust fund: Similar to a personal injury claim, only the company in question went bankrupt, so you can’t sue them – but you may be able to access a trust fund they set aside for mesothelioma victims.
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits: U.S. military veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service may qualify for related health care benefits through the VA.
  • Wrongful death: When a mesothelioma patient passes away, their family member or estate representative may be able to file a lawsuit on their behalf, seeking money to pay for past medical expenses, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, etc.
    A mesothelioma attorney can determine which type of claim makes the most sense for you and your family. (Some clients qualify for more than one.)

Contact us to learn more.

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