Asbestos Exposure Occupations

Quick Summary

There are certain occupations that put a person at a greater risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. The list is, unfortunately very long as many occupations put people at risk of coming into contact with asbestos.

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Occupations Known For Asbestos Exposure

Exposure to asbestos can occur under many different circumstances. In the 20th century especially, men and women were exposed to asbestos as part of their job or by living with someone who worked in a job that exposed the worker to the substance. They brought the asbestos home with them on their clothes and family members breathed in or ingested the asbestos and later came down with an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma.

Those who worked in the military were especially at risk for asbestos exposure. During World War II, people who worked in the Navy lived on ships or submarines that were insulated with asbestos. Also, Navy workers could become exposed to asbestos when they used the substance to build ships.

In other branches of the service, members of the military were exposed to asbestos in construction jobs by products that were made from asbestos. Because asbestos-related illnesses don’t show up for up to 50 years after the exposure, these people didn’t develop mesothelioma until many decades after they left the Armed Forces.

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Professions With The Highest Risk For Exposure

The following is a list of occupations that carry the highest risk for asbestos:

  • Aircraft Mechanics. Asbestos was used in aircrafts, especially by the US Navy. Prior to 1981, asbestos was used to insulate engines in the making of brake pads as adhesives, and in electrical insulation components. Mechanics were exposed to asbestos when repairing these types of vessels.
  • Aeronautical Engineers. Aeronautical engineers were at a greater risk of contamination with asbestos if they worked as retrofitters of various types of aircrafts. When aircrafts were being maintained, the aeronautical engineers became exposed to asbestos that was used to insulate the aircraft. This is no longer the case, as asbestos has been banned in aircrafts.
  • Auto Mechanics. Automobiles use asbestos in many of their components, such as brake pads and clutches. Mechanics who worked on replacing brake pads or building cars were exposed to asbestos as part of that process.
  • Blacksmiths. Blacksmiths generally work with molten metals, but they require substances that are heat resistant. Because asbestos is an extremely flame retardant material, it was used in the blacksmith industry to cool molten metals. As a result, blacksmiths breathed in the substance.
  • Boilermakers. Asbestos is used as insulation for things like hot water heaters. Boilermakers who worked around hot water heaters and other construction materials came into contact with the substance and breathed in asbestos fibers.
  • Brick and Stone Masons. Many bricks had asbestos mixed into the material so that, when working with bricks and stones, these workers were exposed to the substance. This increased the likelihood that they would develop an asbestos-related disease.
  • Bulldozer Operators. Bulldozer operators are instrumental in taking down older buildings that were insulated with asbestos fibers. As part of the demolition process, the bulldozer operator breathed in the insulation fibers and later came down with mesothelioma from this type of exposure.
  • Cabinet makers. The paper liners in cabinets were often made from asbestos. While this practice was discontinued in the 1980s, cabinet makers who are responsible for demolishing old cabinets and putting in new cabinets are continuing to be exposed to asbestos when doing this type of work.
  • Carpenters. Carpenters prior to the 1980s were exposed to asbestos whenever they put in asbestos-containing insulation. Nowadays, asbestos isn’t used for insulation but those carpenters who work in renovation have to get rid of asbestos-containing insulation in older homes as part of the demolition and rebuilding process.
  • Chemical Technicians. Chemical technicians often work with substances that contain asbestos.  While this is less often occurring in today’s times, those chemical technicians who still work with certain products come into contact with asbestos as part of their job.
  • Civil engineers. Civil engineers often work closely with the design and building of various kinds of structures. They worked in the past in building structures that were insulated with products that contained asbestos. Fortunately, buildings are no longer insulated with products that have asbestos in them.
  • Construction Workers. People who work with construction are similar to carpenters who work in older homes that are still insulated with insulation made out of asbestos. Construction Workers who work in renovation are particularly at risk of breathing in asbestos, even in modern times.
  • Crane operators. Crane operators often work like bulldozer operators in the demolition of buildings. They use the cranes to demolish larger buildings that are often still insulated with products laced with asbestos.
  • Draftsmen. Draftsmen are those people involved in the design and building of large structures like office buildings. While doing their job, they came into contact with insulation used to build the structures they designed and were exposed to asbestos.
  • Drill Press Operators. Drill press operators generally work with metal objects. Unfortunately, many metal substances used in metalworking contain asbestos and, while drilling holes, the drill press operators breathed in asbestos that ultimately led to asbestos-related illnesses.
  • Drywall Tapers. Drywall is often made with asbestos because it is lightweight and can be incorporated into the drywall. Tapers are exposed to the raw edges of drywall and breathe in asbestos as part of their job.

There are many other occupations that have been associated with asbestos exposure, both in the military and civilian jobs.

Additional occupations at risk for exposure to asbestos include the following:

  • Deckhands and Sailors
  • Electricians
  • Electrical Engineers
  • Electric Power Linemen
  • Factory Workers
  • Firefighters
  • Forgemen
  • Freight and Smelter Operators
  • Furniture/Smelter Operators
  • Garage Mechanics
  • Grinding Machine Operators
  • Hairdressers
  • Heavy Equipment Operators
  • Home Inspectors
  • Household Appliance Installers
  • HVAC Workers
  • Insulators
  • Industrial Plant Workers
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Iron Workers
  • Machinists
  • Merchant Marines
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Metal Lathers
  • Millwrights
  • Miners
  • Mixing Operators
  • Molders
  • Oil Refinery Workers
  • Operating Engineers
  • Painters
  • Pipefitters
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Police Officers
  • Power Plant Workers
  • Railroad Workers
  • Road Machine Operators
  • Sales Engineers
  • Sawyers
  • Shipyard Workers
  • Stationary Engineers
  • Sheet Metal Workers
  • Steamfitters
  • Structural Metal Craftsmen
  • Telephone Repairmen
  • Textile Operators
  • Tinsmiths
  • Tool Makers
  • Welders
  • Weavers

If you worked in any of the above occupations or were in the military, you need to be aware of the possibility that you were exposed to asbestos. You should constantly be on the lookout for any symptoms of an asbestos-related disease.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

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