Asbestos was used for many purposes prior to its federal ban in the late 1970's. In fact, asbestos use was incredibly widespread up until the time its relationship with cancer and respiratory illness became evident. Still, its use was so common that it remained in many of the fixtures for which it was used prior to the ban. Today, those exposed to asbestos are most likely to encounter in older fixtures, such as insulation, plumbing, or electrical fittings.
The conditions under which most asbestos exposures occur are occupational, or workplace encounters with the toxin. Some jobsites are more prone to asbestos exposure than others. Those who worked in construction, shipyards, railroads, or power plants are generally most at risk, but exposure is not limited to these professions. Asbestos was used mainly for its ability to insulate and prevent heat transfer. Therefore any profession which engaged materials that required this quality is potentially an at-risk occupation.
Of particular risk are those who worked with older fixtures and structures, especially those built prior to 1980. Recent studies have shown that nearly 80% of all structures built prior to 1980 contain some degree of asbestos in their construction. In terms of vessel-construction, asbestos was one of the most commonly used materials in shipyards for its ability to protect the integrity of the ship's construction against temperature extremes. For this reason, shipyard exposures are extremely common.
Jobsites may also be related to natural disasters and terrorist attacks, such as those of Hurricane Katrina and the World Trade Center site following September 11th. The force of these events left many at risk of asbestos exposure. In fact it is said that the World Trade Center Twin Towers contained as much as 300 tons of asbestos, nearly all of which was released among the dust when the towers fell. Those who were present during either of these events, or have worked within recovery efforts could also have been potentially exposed to asbestos.
As said above though, there are very few professions which are said to be asbestos exposure-immune. Simply by inhabiting an older building, exposure is possible under the right conditions. It is important to recognize if you may have been exposed and seek further information. If you are presently, or were once employed at an-asbestos prone category of jobsites, it is important you closely monitor your personal health and seek a physician's guidance.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.