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Asbestos exposure frequently affected industrial workers like shipbuilders, mechanics and construction workers, leading the employees to develop mesothelioma and related diseases. These industries have historically used asbestos for its insulation and fireproofing qualities.
Because of widespread asbestos use in military structures, veterans and those involved in the construction of ships, planes and even barracks are also at an increased risk of developing malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). These individuals often had repeated contact with asbestos over a period of years or even decades. Such chronic exposure to asbestos fibers has been conclusively linked to higher rates of pleural mesothelioma and related diseases.
If you were exposed to asbestos while on the job or serving in the Armed Forces, get the facts about your risks. Learn about causes and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma and how you can properly monitor your health with a free informational packet. The Pleural Mesothelioma Center will send your copy in the mail after you complete this form.
Occupational exposure – on the job exposure – is the chief way people are exposed to asbestos. Individuals can be exposed environmentally (by living near a landfill or by an area contaminated with asbestos) or secondarily (by, for instance, washing clothes full of asbestos fibers). Because occupational exposure is such an issue, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates asbestos concentrations allowed in the air, limiting the concentration to 0.1 fibers per milliliter of air. OSHA has determined that minimizing the amount of airborne asbestos helps lower the risk of occupational asbestos exposure one of the primary causes of pleural mesothelioma. Even at the mandated lower exposure levels asbestos remains a health issue for many workers.
OSHA concluded that employees exposed to asbestos today are done so in concentrations of 50,000 times higher than levels experienced by the general public. OSHA estimates that this includes nearly 700,000 people.
Occupations That Most Commonly Used Asbestos
Prior to regulations in the 1980s, asbestos was hailed as a cheap, effective insulator. It was virtually inflammable. Asbestos was used to make numerous products ranging from gaskets and brakes to insulation to drywall. People who worked with asbestos or asbestos-containing materials were regularly exposed to the deadly material, generally without any knowledge of its cancerous health effects.
Because asbestos was frequently used in ships to insulate pipes and boilers to fireproof them, shipbuilding consistently ranked as a commonly exposed profession. This overuse of asbestos, the lack of protective gear and other safety measures led former shipyard workers around the world to develop pleural mesothelioma and related diseases in high numbers. One study found former shipbuilders accounted for 67 percent of Italy's MPM patients. A similar study from Japan found that 52 percent of people with MPM had worked in shipyards.
But shipbuilding is hardly alone as being a high-risk industry for pleural mesothelioma. There is no such thing as one high-risk occupation. Rather, there is a large handful of them. Other manufacturing and the installation industries with a long history of asbestos use include:
Besides industrial jobs that exposed workers to asbestos without protective gear, other occupations have an elevated risk of pleural mesothelioma. Included in these at-risk professions are:
Veterans are a high-risk group for developing pleural mesothelioma. About one-third of the cases of diagnosed pleural mesothelioma are those of veterans. This should not be construed that long military service equals more risk for pleural mesothelioma. Instead, this is a function of job choice both during and after military service. Because many veterans performed industrial jobs or tasks while in the service, a larger percentage of them went into similar jobs after leaving the service.
Studies show that the combination of military service and these industrial jobs help elevate the numbers of veterans who end up battling pleural mesothelioma.The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that veterans may have been exposed to asbestos while performing any of the following jobs:
Some groups of veterans represent an even higher risk of developing MPM. Navy veterans are in the elevated group because of the large amounts of asbestos used in the construction of U.S. Navy ships. Career service individuals have a high risk because of the regular and prolonged exposure over a series of decades. Non-career individuals may also be at a higher risk but only if they traded military service for similar jobs as civilians.
If you are a veteran with a history of asbestos exposure, the Pleural Mesothelioma Center can help. Learn about your rights and get help filing for benefits by completing the form on our Veterans Assistance page.