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What Is Asbestos?
Without even knowing it, most of us have been around asbestos at some point in our lives. While it may only take one asbestos fiber to cause mesothelioma, those who have experienced continued exposure to asbestos over time are at higher risk for developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
Where Have People Been Exposed to Asbestos?
Men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces, especially in the Navy, may have worked in dangerous environments without knowing. Asbestos-containing products were used in every military branch and found throughout Navy ships, construction materials, protective gear, and shipyards, to name a few. As a group, veterans make up a majority of the diagnosed mesothelioma cases each year.
Today, asbestos-containing products in the workplace are highly regulated — but it didn’t used to be that way. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago when these dangerous materials surrounded all kinds of people doing all kinds of work — from auto mechanics, to firefighters, to the construction workers who handled products like insulation, wallboard, roofing shingles, flooring and ceiling tiles.
Just like secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, secondhand asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma. One common way this can happen is when family members are exposed to asbestos fibers — often appearing as dust — brought home on a loved one’s work clothes. For example, if your husband’s work environment contained asbestos, and you washed his dusty clothes, you may have been exposed too.
What Are the Riskiest Occupations and Work Environments?
People who worked hard their whole lives could just now be discovering that the career that brought them so much pride is the cause of their mesothelioma diagnosis. That’s because symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear for 20 to 50 years after exposure. Navy veterans and folks who work or worked in the following occupations are often at higher risk:
- Auto mechanics
- Construction workers
- Oil refinery workers
- Railroad workers
- Shipyard workers
- Steel mill workers
- Welders/foundry workers