Who's at Risk?
Nearly everyone has a chance to be exposed to asbestos since it can be any kind of the building products at your home. The following is an account of who can be exposed to asbestos and how.
Not only workers in asbestos mining and milling can be exposed to asbestos, workers in shipbuilding trades, workers in manufacturing of asbestos textiles and other asbestos products, workers in construction and building trades, workers in brake repair, and workers in a variety of other trades can also be exposed to asbestos. Demolition workers, drywall removers, and firefighters also may be exposed to asbestos fibers.
As a result of Government regulations and improved work practices, today’s workers (those without previous exposure) are likely to face smaller risks than did those exposed in the past.
Although it is known that the risk to workers increases with heavier exposure and longer exposure time, investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals with only brief exposures. Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure. It can take from 10 to 40 years for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear.
Family Members of Asbestos Workers
Family members of asbestos related workers can be exposed to asbestos, and face an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. This risk is thought to result from exposure to asbestos fibers brought into the home on the shoes, clothing, skin, and hair of workers. This type of exposure is called para-occupational exposure. To decrease these exposures, people exposed to asbestos at work are required to shower and change their clothing before leaving the workplace.
People Living in Regular Homes
This can apply to anyone, since asbestos is potentially in any home. The attics and walls of an estimated 12-to-35 million homes and other structures contain vermiculite insulation that, if disturbed, could cause exposure to asbestos according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The insulation that raises the most concern is called Zonolite, derived from vermiculite ore in a now-closed, 80-year-old mine in Libby, Montana, last owned by W.R. Grace & Co. Hundreds of Libby miners and their relatives have died of asbestos-related diseases. The ore was sent to more than 700 locations throughout North America.
The type of asbestos contained in Zonolite is known as tremolite, and the latest research done on victims from Libby, Montana has shown tremolite to be toxic at levels less than one percent.
EPA investigators have discovered that even a minor disturbance of Zonolite can release much higher levels of asbestos into the zone of air that people breathe. The insulation can also leak asbestos into a room through cracks in the ceiling, around light fixtures or around ceiling fans.
In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey found that 9,250 tons of asbestos was used in asphaltic roofing compounds in 2001.
Asbestos in Apartments and Office/commercial Buildings
An EPA report estimated that there is 2.7 billion square feet of exposed asbestos-containing floor tile in 1.5 million buildings.
The demolition or destruction of older high-rise buildings often means that people in the surrounding area are newly exposed to asbestos.
The attack on the World Trade Center spread a storm of asbestos-contaminated dust throughout lower Manhattan, creating a risk as high as one additional cancer death for every 10 people exposed. Air conditioning units on rooftops and in windows sucked in the dust, covering floors, walls, window coverings and furniture of apartments and offices within several blocks of ground zero.
The levels of asbestos measured in some apartments was as high as in Libby, Montana, the location of a notorious vermiculite ore mine that is now a Superfund site.
Appendix: Asbestos Environments and Occupations:
Asbestos product manufacturing (insulation, roofing, building, materials)
Automotive repair (brakes & clutches)
Offshore rust removals
Sand or abrasive manufacturers
Shipyards / ships / shipbuilders
Asbestos removal workers
Workers at exfoliation facilities where vermiculite ore from Libby, Montana,
Workers at asbestos product manufacturing plants
Floor covering manufacturers or installers