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Am I at risk of asbestos exposure at my job?

As some of you may already know, asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that is not only heat resistant but does not conduct electricity either. It’s because of these properties that it has been used as an insulation material across the nation in homes, schools, and factories for several decades.

But in the 1900s, a growing amount of evidence started to show a link between asbestos and health issues, particularly in the lungs. By the mid-1970s, laws had been put in place the world over to ban the use of asbestos in construction materials and other products. But because it’s still possible to be exposed to asbestos, we wanted to share some at-risk places in an attempt to answer the question in this week’s post title.

Because asbestos was used in a wide-range of products in the latter half of the century, many people could have been exposed to it without even knowing it. Particularly in World War II, workers at shipyards were exposed to high levels of asbestos during the ship-building processes. Other high-risk occupations include manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, those in the mining industry, and construction workers who may have installed asbestos-containing insulation.

It’s worth noting that it’s not just these workers who should be concerned about asbestos exposure. Maintenance workers who sweep up or remove asbestos-containing debris could be at high risk for exposure. This is especially true in older buildings that have not undergone asbestos remediation.

It’s important to remember as well that although tiles and wall coverings that contain asbestos are not considered harmful when they are intact, actions such as remodeling or demolition can release asbestos fibers into the air, causing them to become inhaled, which can create serious health problems. This would be a particular concern for building contractors or even a home owner as well, and is worth considering before doing any work in a place where there is a risk of asbestos exposure.

Source: The American Cancer Society, “Asbestos,” October 24, 2013, Accessed June 25, 2014

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