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Asbestos Exposure and Your Job: At-Risk Occupations, Industries and Locations


Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma cancer and others. A potentially dangerous exposure can result from very small fibers at low exposure levels. Most such exposure would likely have occurred prior to the 1980s, but the latency period can be up to 40 years for most asbestos-related cancers to develop. (See more information on screening.)


Many people have come into contact with asbestos fibers via their jobs, or occupational exposure. There is also a risk to the family members of those working in at-risk occupations; this exposure is called paraoccupational exposure. By one estimate*, nearly 80% of the cases of mesothelioma are believed to be the direct result of occupational or paraoccupational exposure to primary asbestos fibers.


A third group of people are also at risk but it is not a risk the derives from their job but from where they live. Those who live near sites likely to have asbestos around the facility - refineries, power plants, factories, shipyards, steel mills and building demolition - can be exposed via the release of asbestos fibers that contaminate their residential neighborhoods.


For more discussion of the dangers of exposure to asbestos where we work and live, see 'The epidemiology of asbestos-related diseases,' by J. Niklinski, et al. in Lung Cancer August 2004;45:S7-S15.


Specific Industries and Occupations with Asbestos-Exposure Risk


Industries / Job Locations:

  • Asbestos product manufacturing (insulation, roofing, building, materials)
  • Automotive repair (brakes & clutches)
  • Construction/contractors
  • Maritime
  • Oil refineries
  • Power plants
  • Railroads
  • Shipyards / ships
  • Steel mills



  • Automotive mechanics
  • Boiler makers
  • Bricklayers
  • Building Inspectors
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Hod carriers
  • Insulators
  • Iron workers
  • Laborers
  • Longshoremen
  • Maintenance workers
  • Merchant marines
  • Millwrights
  • Painters
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Steam fitters
  • Tile setters
  • U.S. Navy veterans
  • Welders

* 'The quantitative risks of mesothelioma and lung cancer in relation to asbestos exposure,' by J.T. Hodgson, et al. in Ann Occup Hyg. 2000; 44:565-601

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