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Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Many people work hard to bring home an honest day’s pay to support their families. But who would have ever imagined that just by going to work they could also be bringing home a deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma? Unfortunately, this is a sad reality for many honest, hardworking individuals who earned their living before the 1980s in a variety of occupations.The National Cancer Institute says that everyone is exposed to asbestos at some point in their lives because low levels can be found in the air, water, and soil. However, asbestos-related diseases are usually found in people who experienced prolonged exposure to asbestos-containing products on a regular basis.The bottom line is this: People who worked in occupations that brought them into direct contact with asbestos-containing products, day in and day out, are among the most likely to develop mesothelioma.

Did Your Job Put You At Risk?

When it comes to asbestos exposure in the workplace, some jobs have been proven to cause a higher risk than others. Occupations that required people to work in close proximity to and actually handle asbestos-containing products such as car brake pads, wallboard, and insulation were just of a few of the most dangerous positions to hold.Folks who worked in these industries also ran an increased risk of exposing their entire families to asbestos dust carried home on their work clothes every day. Anyone who worked in the occupations listed below prior to the 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos and is at risk of developing mesothelioma. Click on any of the job titles to learn more about on-the-job asbestos exposure in these specific occupations.

Auto mechanics

Asbestos was commonly used in auto parts like brake pads, gaskets, and clutches. As these parts began to wear down, they may have released asbestos fibers into the air where mechanics could inhale them and eventually develop mesothelioma. Learn more about auto mechanics.

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Auto Mechanics

Construction workers

Working in construction can be hazardous for many different reasons, including the possibility of asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used in a variety of construction materials, tools, and building products that construction workers handled every day. Learn more about construction workers.

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Construction Workers


Asbestos is resilient and incredibly heat resistant, which made it a natural choice as a material to be used in the production of the protective jackets, helmets, boots, and other specFrom railroads to construction, machinists worked in several different industries where it was not uncommon for them to come into contact with machine parts, heavy equipment, and even protective gear that contained asbestos. Learn more about firefighters.

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Without warning, U.S. military veterans, especially those who served in the U.S. Navy, were regularly exposed to asbestos-containing products. Today, unfortunately, these proud men and women make up a large portion of mesothelioma victims. World War II Navy ships are now notorious for being filled with asbestos-containing materials in boiler rooms, engine rooms, and beyond. Learn more about asbestos in the military.

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Oil refinery workers

Because heat and oil are an unsafe combination, asbestos was used as insulation and in the fire protection gear workers used in oil refineries. It could also be found in heavy machines, in machine parts, and in other forms of clothing. Learn more about oil refinery workers and asbestos exposure.

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Oil Refinery Workers


Pipefitters and plumbers are not the same, but these two separate occupations deal with many of the same asbestos concerns. Asbestos-containing insulation products were used to protect many kinds of pipes. Installing, maintaining, and repairing these pipes required plumbers and pipefitters to work closely with this insulation—and the deadly asbestos fibers inside. Plumbers and pipefitters may also have been exposed to asbestos while working in buildings that were under construction, and even by working with the special tools and parts they used every day. Learn more about how plumbers and pipefitters may have been exposed to asbestos.

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Pipefitter & Plumbers

Railroad workers

Asbestos-containing products were used so often in locomotives that just about anyone in the railroad industry—from laborers to conductors to ticket booth employees—may have inhaled the dangerous dust these products often release as they age or become damaged. Learn more about railroad workers and asbestos.

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Railroad Workers

Shipyard workers

Because asbestos-containing materials were used throughout ships, it is only natural that the people who were building these vessels would be at risk of injury. Learn more about shipyard workers.

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Shipyard Workers

Steel mill workers

From blacksmiths to millwrights, virtually anyone who worked in a steel mill may have been exposed to asbestos. The danger came in the form of the asbestos-containing insulation that was commonly used in the furnaces, boilers, stoves, and other heat-related machines workers used and the protective clothing they wore every day. Learn more about steel mill workers.

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Steel Mill Workers

Welders & Foundry workers

Welders and foundry workers were often responsible for handling very hot materials. Ironically, asbestos was an ingredient used in the manufacturing of some of the heat-resistant protective gear they used all the time. In addition, it was not uncommon for welders and foundry workers to be exposed to asbestos as they handled tools such as welding rods. Learn more about welders and foundry workers.

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Welders & Foundry Workers

Whether you were just diagnosed with mesothelioma and you’re trying to figure out if you were exposed to asbestos at work, or a family member used to work in one of these industries and you’re concerned about secondhand exposure to asbestos, click on any of the individual occupation pages above to learn more about on-the-job asbestos exposure.