The risks of getting a serious disease from exposure to asbestos have been known for a long time. Contrary to popular belief, the United States has not banned the use of asbestos. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency tried to ban asbestos, but the asbestos industry got the effort nullified in the court system. So, while asbestos use in the U.S. is regulated, asbestos is still used in some products including automotive brakes.
There are still efforts to completely eliminate asbestos. Even so, the risk of exposure in the workplace exists.
And because it can take so long (often decades) for some types of asbestos-related disease to develop, an exposure that happened years ago can still cause severe or even fatal consequences.
Many industries faced high risk in the past
In a previous blog post, we detailed the many, various occupations and industries that faced a high risk of asbestos exposure. If you worked in these fields in the past few decades, it could be possible you are showing signs and symptoms of mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis now, given the long latency period inherent with asbestos-related diseases.
However, what about today’s workers? If you walk into work, is there still a chance of exposure?
Where is the risk in the present-day workplace?
Despite reductions in the use and prevalence of asbestos, there are still too many occupational risks of exposure. Nowadays, the risk depends primarily on your environment. For example, you could face asbestos exposure in today’s world if:
- You are in contact with older homes: This could include several workers, such as firefighters responding to a house fire. It might also include construction workers, such as contractors, plumbers, electricians, insulators, carpenters, and laborers, working on renovation or remodeling projects.
- You work in older buildings: Just like homes, older buildings may still contain asbestos. However, the industry can vary widely. Office workers in old buildings or manufacturers in older factories could face the risk of exposure, especially if the building material deteriorates or is disturbed. Unfortunately, older school buildings pose another risk, with news stories about exposure risks across the nation sparking concern for teachers and students.
- You are in contact with materials containing asbestos: There are still several industries and occupations today that could come into contact with materials made using asbestos, such as construction workers and industrial workers, including those working in older power plants. For example, asbestos was commonly found in many materials throughout the automotive industry. A mechanic today working on a vehicle could face the risk of exposure when repairing or replacing the brakes. It is critical for mechanics and all automotive workers to follow the steps the Environmental Protection Agency outlines to prevent exposure.
- You work in the military, or abroad: The biggest risk for members of the military used to lie in shipyards or the ships themselves. Nowadays, it might lie overseas in locations with fewer restrictions on asbestos than even the United States.
These are by no means the only risks of asbestos exposure that exist in today’s workplace. They are simply some of the most common.
Asbestos is still a risk to Tennessee workers. There is no safe level of exposure. It is critical to know the risks you could face in the workplace and understand your employer’s policies and regulations surrounding your safety.