Asbestos Workplace Exposure

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Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that can cause potentially fatal diseases. If you have been exposed to asbestos dust and fibers you should:

  • Contact a physician
  • Identify when, where and how you came into contact with asbestos dust.
  • Become familiar with your rights regarding the exposure.

To the left and below is a list of links that may help you discover more about who is at risk,  where you may potentially have come into contact with asbestos, and how you may file a claim.

People at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Shipyards: During World War II and continuing through the early 1970's, asbestos products were extensively used in shipyards for ship construction and ship repair.  Shipyard work typically involves multiple trades working in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces.  For 50 years, asbestos products were used without any safety precautions or equipment, and the dust in this environment has been repeatedly described as heavy, uncontrolled dust which frequently looked like a snowstorm.  Asbestos products were used throughout the ships to insulate pipes, machinery and equipment, to cover the floors and ceilings, to build the bulkheads, and to valves, pumps and pipe joints.  Virtually every trade in the shipyards came in contact with asbestos products by either directly handling, cutting mixing these products or working in the same area where the dust from asbestos products was being created by other trades.  Supervisors, maintenance workers, skilled craftsmen and virtually anyone on board ships were all exposed to significant concentrations of asbestos without any knowledge of the potential dangers of this exposure.

Active Duty Navy: One of the largest segments of the population at risk for mesothelioma is those who served our county in the Navy. Asbestos was used extensively in nearly all vessels built before the 1970s. Massive amounts of asbestos were built into the ships and used to insulate pipes, boilers, engines and the turbines of ships, and to seal valves, pumps and pipe joints. Exposure to asbestos was likely to occur at one of three phases of a Navy officer's career. Navy veterans were often exposed to asbestos in Virginia and at risk for mesothelioma cancer, if 1) their home base was in Norfolk Virginia, 2) if their ship was overhauled in the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, or 3) if they were part of the original crew of a ship built in the Newport News Shipyard. 

Household Exposure: Wives and children of shipyard workers were also frequently exposed to asbestos dust from the asbestos-contaminated clothing that the worker brought home every day.  Secondhand exposure to asbestos, even briefly, can cause mesothelioma cancer. Consequently, many of the wives of shipyard workers, Navy veterans, and industrial workers have contracted this deadly cancer. Typically, shipyard workers and other heavily exposed trades would bring asbestos-covered work clothes into the home, where they would be shaken and washed by the worker's wife.  Numerous cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer have resulted from this exposure. These cases illustrate the deadly potential of low dose asbestos exposure.

Auto and Truck Brake & Clutch Mechanics:  Those who made a career of servicing auto and/or truck brakes and clutches may have been exposed to sufficient asbestos dust to cause disease, especially mesothelioma.

Construction & Building Trades:  Union members and retirees of many construction trades routinely and frequently encountered hazardous asbestos products in doing their work.  They were also exposed to asbestos products being used by other trades working nearby, during the construction, renovation, and repairing various industrial, commercial, military, education, governmental, and other job sites.  Mechanical systems, including piping, duct work and equipment, were assembled with, sealed and/or insulated with asbestos products.  Structural steel and decking were fireproofed and sound proofed with asbestos sprays.  Components of walls, roofing, electrical wiring and flooring contained asbestos through the 1970s and, in some cases, even later.

Industrial Workers: Workers in industries where asbestos fiber was incorporated into the company's products, such as manufacturers of insulation, gaskets, packing, roofing, building, materials, etc., prior to adequate safety controls were at risk of developing asbestos disease.  This includes indirect contact with asbestos production such as secretaries and executives in adjoining offices, and spouses and family members of workers who wore asbestos laden work clothes home unaware that it could pose a hazard to their health.

Residential and Commercial Contractors:  Mechanics who worked for, or operated a plumbing and heating contract or jobbing business, or worked in oil burner installation and service, may have had considerable asbestos exposure, even if the work was mostly residential.  Residential boilers, furnaces, and hot water heaters, installed up through the 1970s were often assembled, sealed, and/or insulated with asbestos products, as was the attendant piping.

Also home owners who removed, sanded or replaced asbestos vinyl flooring or joint compound were exposed to substantial quantities of asbestos dust.

Occupations at Risk 

  • Insulators (Pipecoverers)
  • Sheetmetal Workers
  • Steamfitters
  • Plumbers & Pipefitters
  • Masons & Bricklayers
  • Ironworkers
  • Roofers
  • Carpenters & Joiners
  • Boilermakers
  • Tilesetters & Flooring Contractors
  • Shipfitters
  • Electricians
  • Paperworkers
  • Painters
  • Plasterers & Dry Wall Contractors
  • Refinery Workers
  • Utility Workers (Powerhouses)
  • Riggers
  • Machinists
  • Navy Seamen
  • Maintenance Workers
  • Asbestos Product Manufacturing
  • Automobile Brake Workers

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