Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

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Asbestos Exposure

Perhaps one of the most troublesome aspects of asbestos exposure is that many people aren't even aware of being exposed to asbestos. Because asbestos particles are invisible to the eye, they aren't easily detected. Yet, during the production, installation, repair, use, maintenance, and removal of asbestos-containing products, these tiny particles can become airborne. Once this happens, the asbestos fibers can be ingested or inhaled by people in those environments. For this reason, occupational asbestos exposure, described below, is the most common way people are exposed to this dangerous material. Asbestos fibers can also travel home with workers, posing the risk of secondary asbestos exposure to family and friends. Home improvement efforts pose a special threat of asbestos exposure to workers and residents.

Primary or Occupational Asbestos Exposure

Industries with High Asbestos Exposure Risks

Workers with High Asbestos Exposure Risks

  • Shipyards
  • Factories
  • Power Plants
  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Oil refineries
  • Schools
  • Public buildings
  • Chemical Plants
  • Auto-manufacturing plants
  • Metal works
  • Sailors
  • Factory Workers
  • Pipe Fitters
  • Sheet Metal Workers
  • Plumbers
  • Laborers
  • Construction Workers
  • Machinists
  • Power Plant Workers
  • Electricians
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Veterans
  • Railroad Workers
  • Firefighters

Secondary Exposure to Asbestos

People who live with others who have been directly exposed to asbestos on the job are at risk for secondary asbestos exposure. One way that secondary asbestos exposure occurs is through the laundry--the person doing the laundry is unwittingly exposed to asbestos particles or fibers that have come home on another family member's clothing. Likewise, people who live near mines where asbestos exists are also at risk for asbestos exposure. Lastly, exposure to asbestos can also happen on a case-by-case basis in special circumstances, such as the 2001 World Trade Center tragedy in New York City. Natural disasters can also present a risk of asbestos exposure.