Asbestos is a rugged, heat-resistant, naturally-occurring element with thousands of applications. Thus, many different industries used this common material in a vast range of products. Even though asbestos was much more common from 1900 to 1980, it’s still used in many different products today.
Many different working environments contained asbestos and industrial workers and tradesmen often developed mesothelioma, lung cancer and other diseases. In addition, these tradesmen often brought home asbestos on jackets, boots, hats and other items. Asbestos fibers flew through air in these living spaces, and family members experienced second-hand asbestos exposure. With this exposure, many contracted asbestos associated diseases.
Industries with occupational hazards
Over the decades, commercial, residential, industrial buildings, ships, cars and airplanes all contained asbestos. These industrial settings and vehicles exposed millions of career tradesmen, professionals and other workers to asbestos.
Automotive mechanic: The automotive industry has phased out asbestos in many different products. However, mechanics install brake pads, clutches, heat seals, and other parts with asbestos.
Construction workers and home remodelers: Commercial and residential buildings contain many products with asbestos. Homes built before 1980 often have asbestos vinyl and linoleum tiles, adhesives, roofing materials, insulation, drywall joint compound, outdoor siding and other products.
Oil refinery worker: In this energy intensive industry, asbestos-insulated pipes are found in factories because the material is heat and fire resistant. Asbestos insulation is commonly found around furnaces, pumps, lining, tanks, boilers, heat exchangers and other equipment.
Electricians: Manufactures use asbestos as an insulator for wire, high-voltage switchgear and motors. Electricians often work around fireproofing and joint compounds with asbestos.
Firefighters: When buildings burn, the fire releases asbestos fibers from a variety of building products, and these fibers circulate through the air. Often firefighters inadvertently breathe in these fibers. In addition, gear and equipment manufacturers use asbestos in helmets, high-heat jackets, clothing and boots.
Longshoremen boilermakers and shipyard workers: Longshoremen often loaded and unloaded asbestos cargo. Shipbuilders used an enormous amount of asbestos to construct and repair ships. Boilermakers used cements, adhesives, pipe blankets and heat shields with asbestos.
Sheet metal workers: Typically, workers fabricated metal fixtures or structures that contained asbestos products. Commonly, sheet metal workers came into contact asbestos roofing materials, siding, cement and boiler covers
Railroad workers: Companies manufactured asbestos products and components for locomotive and train cars. Asbestos material was in brakes, pipe insulation and other products.
Plumbers and pipefitters: These tradesmen consistently work with asbestos insulation materials, gaskets and pipe compound.
Brick masons: Similar to other industries, asbestos is an excellent and durable insulator, so it’s found in insulation gaskets, rope, refractory mortars, and of course, insulation.
Educators: Old buildings with damaged or deteriorating building materials have exposed educators to asbestos dust.
While this is not a definitive list of all the occupations and trades with asbestos exposure, it covers many of the most common trades that have used asbestos. Asbestos exposure is serious. If you or your family members are experiencing health issues and suspect asbestos exposure, see a physician immediately.