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Asbestos Jobsites

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This page was legally reviewed by Jennifer Lucarelli on April 27, 2023. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have comments or questions on our content please contact us.

Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor


For decades, various industries used asbestos at many jobsites. This put workers at risk of dangerous exposure. Asbestos is still present at many jobsites in old products, equipment and other materials. Workers exposed to asbestos at jobsites face risks of asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma.


01. Asbestos Exposure Sites

What Are Asbestos Jobsites?

Asbestos jobsites are work locations where the mineral was used in some way. Asbestos use put on-site individuals at risk of exposure. Because it is affordable and fire resistant, asbestos was popular at many jobsites. Until the 1980s, thousands of products contained asbestos, such as construction and shipbuilding materials. As a result, workers in many industries risked occupational asbestos exposure.

Today, asbestos is regulated more strictly in the United States. Still, there is not a full asbestos ban. Exposure risks continue for workers through old asbestos equipment, materials and products at jobsites. Their loved ones may also risk secondary exposure if the workers unknowingly bring fibers home on their clothing.

Examples of Jobsites That Used Asbestos

Note: This is not an exhaustive list

Many buildings may also contain asbestos, putting more individuals at risk. Schools, homes and other buildings built before 1980 may contain asbestos materials. Renovations and general aging of these buildings may release asbestos fibers. Anyone in these buildings may be at risk of exposure. Asbestos exposure may later lead to the development of diseases, such as mesothelioma.

02. Military Sites and Asbestos

Asbestos Use at Military Sites

Before 1980, nearly all branches of the military used asbestos. These decades of asbestos use put veterans and other service members at risk of exposure. Sites with potential asbestos exposure for personnel include bases, naval ships and shipyards.

The military used asbestos in the high-heat environments of planes and ships. The mineral was also used for structural insulation in various military facilities. Many of these still have asbestos products in their structures today. As a result, veterans and service members are still facing asbestos exposure. In fact, veterans account for about one-third of mesothelioma diagnoses today.

Air Force Bases

Military branches, such as the Air Force, used asbestos for decades. This has led to high cancer risk among veterans. Asbestos was often used in the construction of buildings at Air Force bases. These included dining areas, military housing and training areas. Air Force planes also often contained asbestos for heat control and fireproofing.

As a result, Air Force personnel, veterans and aircraft mechanics risked asbestos exposure. Families of military personnel were also at risk if they lived on base. Loved ones could be exposed to asbestos fibers directly or from secondary exposure.

Asbestos may still be present at some Air Force bases, in older buildings and planes for instance. Air Force personnel today may still be at risk of asbestos exposure.

Ships

Many U.S. Navy veterans and civilian workers experienced asbestos exposure on ships. Until the late 1970s, asbestos use was prominent in ship construction. For instance, naval cruisers, destroyers and various other vessels often contained asbestos materials.

Asbestos could be found almost anywhere on naval vessels. For example, many vessels used the mineral in boiler rooms and pipe insulation. Research suggests felt wrapping in pipes often contained up to 50% asbestos fibers. Insulation in boiler rooms could easily break down during frequent boiler repairs.

Millions of veterans and workers may have been exposed to asbestos onboard ships. Older ships still in use, or retired to serve as historical sites, may still contain asbestos. As a result, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy service members may still risk asbestos exposure.

Shipyards

Shipyard workers and veterans were often exposed to asbestos in the shipyard or on ships. These types of workers may still risk exposure today. For instance, this may occur while maintaining or retiring old ships containing asbestos. Equipment and materials around shipyards could also pose an exposure risk. Shipyard workers may have been at risk of exposure to concentrated asbestos dust in the air.

For example, boilers and insulation on ships often contained asbestos. Maintenance and repair work was often done in small, poorly ventilated rooms. These activities could disturb asbestos materials on ships. As a result, people completing the work and any bystanders risked asbestos exposure.

03. Industrial Plants and Asbestos

Asbestos Use at Industrial Plants

Before 1980, many industrial and commercial jobsites used asbestos. It was used because it can withstand chemicals and resist heat. Chemical plants, oil refineries and power plants are among the industrial jobsites that used asbestos.

Asbestos could be found throughout these jobsites in facilities and equipment. These jobsites also used or produced asbestos products. Common asbestos products at these jobsites included cement, gaskets, insulation and protective clothing.

Millions of workers faced asbestos exposure risks at commercial and industrial jobsites. If exposed, industrial workers may later develop asbestos-related diseases.

Chemical Plants

The chemical industry often used asbestos in its buildings, equipment and machinery. Being a high-heat environment, asbestos could help prevent fires in these plants. Many chemical plant workers also wore protective clothing that contained asbestos. This could help prevent burns, harmful chemical reactions and other injuries. Some chemical corporations, such as Hercules Chemical Company, used a variety of asbestos products.

Today, some chemical plants may still contain asbestos materials. Asbestos may be present in insulation or old equipment. Inhaling asbestos fibers may lead to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Oil Refineries

The oil refining process uses chemicals and high heat. As a result, many refineries used asbestos to protect their machinery. Oil refinery building materials, such as insulation, often contained asbestos. Gaskets and many other products may also have contained asbestos.

Manufacturing companies stopped producing gaskets that contained asbestos in the 1980s. But old machinery and pipes may have asbestos gaskets or other asbestos materials. As a result, oil refinery workers may still be at risk of exposure to asbestos.

Power Plants

Power plants contained asbestos materials to protect machinery from high-heat environments. This was because the mineral resists heat and electricity. Asbestos was often used in insulation at power plants. Protective clothing often contained the mineral, too. Asbestos in clothing allowed workers to better handle hot machinery and prevented burns.

In the United States, more than 150 power plant companies are known to have caused occupational asbestos exposure. Exposure to asbestos may cause mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

04. Metal Industry and Asbestos

Asbestos Use at Metal Industry Facilities

Aluminum plants and steel mills often used asbestos. The mineral could help materials withstand chemicals, high heat and high-voltage power. These hazards were often all part of the process for various tasks at these plants.

Thousands of metal workers faced asbestos exposure risks on the job. Aluminum, steel and other metalworking facilities may still contain asbestos. Metal workers and plant personnel today may still be at risk of asbestos exposure.

Aluminum Plants

Aluminum plants contained asbestos in building materials and plant equipment. The non-corrosive properties of asbestos also made it ideal for aluminum smelting. This may have led to asbestos exposure for plant employees.

Workers may have also experienced asbestos exposure from their protective gear. For decades, protective clothing contained asbestos to withstand chemical reactions and high heat.

Asbestos is still present in older equipment and facilities at many aluminum plants. This puts aluminum plant workers at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.

Steel Mills

Like aluminum plants, steel mills also used various asbestos-containing products. Boilers, ovens, steel molds and other steel mill equipment often contained asbestos. The mineral helped make products lightweight and resistant to high temperatures. Asbestos insulation was often used in steel mill machinery and equipment.

Steel mill workers also wore protective clothing made with asbestos. This helped protect against hot steel and other high-heat materials. Steel companies may have older products on site that still contain asbestos. Workers who experience asbestos exposure may develop mesothelioma and other diseases.

05. Other Asbestos Jobsites

Asbestos Use at Other Jobsites

Before regulations in the 1980s, jobsites in many industries had used asbestos for decades. Asbestos was common at jobsites that needed materials to withstand heat and chemicals.

For instance, the automotive industry frequently used asbestos products. Brake pads, gaskets and valves all contained asbestos. Companies in the brewing industry also used asbestos in their buildings and processes. These jobsites put workers and consumers at risk of exposure and asbestos-related diseases.

Automobiles

The automotive industry once used many asbestos-containing car parts. Asbestos was popular for its heat-resistant, lightweight and insulative properties. Car parts such as brakes, clutches and gaskets may contain asbestos. The mineral was also used in paint and fiberglass. Automotive mechanics and hobbyists may have been at risk of exposure.

Exposure risks continue for auto mechanics and consumers. Some older vehicles may still contain asbestos parts today. The United States still imports some asbestos car parts, too. Past and ongoing asbestos use creates asbestos exposure risks for many automotive workers. This includes do-it-yourself hobbyists, drivers, manufacturers, mechanics and technicians.

Brewing Companies

Some breweries used asbestos in building materials, which may remain today. This includes cement and insulation materials. In the past, brewers also used asbestos in combination with paper to filter beer. Asbestos enhanced filter durability, but they could still wear out from repeated use.

More than 100 brewery jobsites are known to have used asbestos materials. Because of existing asbestos materials, there remains a risk of exposure at some breweries.

06. Schools, Homes and Asbestos

Asbestos Use in Schools and Homes

Schools and homes built before the 1980s may contain asbestos. Asbestos in these buildings puts many people at risk of exposure. Construction workers, staff and teachers face occupational asbestos exposure at these jobsites. Homeowners, students and visitors to schools or homes may also be exposed to asbestos.

Home or school renovations may disturb materials made with asbestos. Older buildings in disrepair may also have disturbed asbestos present. When these materials are disturbed or damaged, asbestos fibers may become airborne.

Anyone who works on or in these older buildings may experience asbestos exposure. These individuals may later develop diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Asbestos in Homes

Before regulations, asbestos was heavily used in the construction industry. For decades, construction materials frequently contained asbestos. Homes built before 1980 may contain asbestos materials like insulation, roofing and tiles. Some asbestos companies kept stockpiles of these products for continued use into the 1990s.

As a result, homeowners may still be at risk of asbestos exposure. Homeowners risk exposure during renovations, repairs or from general wear and tear as the home ages. Workers may also face exposure when repairing or renovating a home with asbestos materials. This includes construction workers, electricians, pipefitters or plumbers.

Asbestos in Schools

Older school buildings across the country may still contain asbestos. Asbestos may be present in the cement, insulation, tiles and other areas of school buildings. Research shows that teachers, staff and students have a high risk of asbestos exposure.

Reports document the average age of U.S. schools is 44 years or older. Aged school buildings are more likely to contain asbestos. Greater wear and tear is also likely at these older schools, which may disturb and release asbestos fibers. Some laws give direction on how to handle asbestos at schools to help prevent exposure.

07. Asbestos Jobsites Today

Is Asbestos Still Used at Jobsites Today?

Many jobsites may still contain asbestos, even if the mineral is no longer actively used. Since the 1980s, regulations in the United States helped limit the use of asbestos. Still, previous uses of the mineral may remain at many jobsites in various industries.

Asbestos is not completely banned in the United States. This means asbestos is still imported into the country for some uses. Data shows asbestos imports are mainly used in the chlor-alkali (or chlorine) industry. Some imported products are also allowed to contain low amounts of asbestos. These products include car parts, for example.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently investigating asbestos. This is part of updated regulations to determine risk management. In 2022, the EPA recommended a ban on chrysotile asbestos. The EPA has an ongoing investigation about past asbestos uses that still remain, also called legacy asbestos. Depending on their findings, the agency may recommend additional asbestos regulations or bans.

08. Preventing Asbestos Exposure

How to Prevent Asbestos Exposure at Jobsites

According to the EPA, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. The mineral is not completely banned in the United States. Still, the EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have regulations to help protect workers. These regulations focus on limiting asbestos exposure at jobsites.

Some laws and regulations to protect workers from asbestos exposure at jobsites include:

  • Limiting health hazards
  • Mitigating the risk of exposure to asbestos
  • Providing safe environments with the necessary protective equipment

Workers in high-risk industries may find it helpful to learn more about asbestos. For instance, workers may want to understand what it may look like and where they may find it. This may help them recognize potential asbestos and take the appropriate safety steps.

Removing or encapsulating asbestos may also help prevent exposure at home or work. Certified asbestos abatement professionals should handle any asbestos removal or mitigation.

What to Do if You Were Exposed to Asbestos at a Jobsite

Individuals should discuss any known or possible asbestos exposure history with their doctor. Doctors can then help watch for signs and symptoms of asbestos illnesses. This may help them detect diseases like mesothelioma earlier in its development. Early detection may give patients access to different treatment options.

Workers who have experienced occupational asbestos exposure may later develop mesothelioma. If that happens, they may have legal rights and be eligible for mesothelioma compensation. Asbestos law firms can explain victims’ legal options and handle the filing process.