Asbestos related materials were commonly used by workers in many occupations. Asbestos was used because it provides good insulation, fire protection, and is an extremely durable material. Many of the occupations that are commonly associated with asbestos exposure are industrial or military related. However, with asbestos being used so often and in so many products, other occupations and bystanders were unknowingly exposed as well.
Thousands of Americans are affected by mesothelioma, and even more are affected by other asbestos-related diseases. Most often, mesothelioma patients worked in an industrial setting with asbestos or were in the military. However, other people are also susceptible to asbestos-related diseases. Some people were exposed to asbestos while working at jobs that seemed safe but required employees to use asbestos products. Other people were exposed to asbestos as bystanders.
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Due to asbestos being fireproof and a good insulator, it was commonly used inside of hair dryers. Using asbestos in hair dryers helped prevent a fire from occurring. It also prevented a hair dryer from overheating or sparking.
Up until 1980, asbestos was used in both handheld and salon hood dryers. A hairdresser who used a hair dryer that was produced before this time may have been exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos was located inside of hair dryers in the form of paper insulation. It could also be located in the dryer’s mount nozzle. Some handheld hair dryers were even given the nickname “small asbestos spray gun.”
In 1979 many hair dryers were recalled in the United States. Many of the models that were recalled were made in other locations around the world.
Some of the companies that recalled several hair dryer models were:
- General Electric
- J.C. Penney
- Montgomery Ward
If the asbestos inside of a hair dryer was disturbed, it is possible that a hairdresser was exposed to it. The hair dryers would have blown these asbestos fibers into the air unknowingly as the hairdresser was either using a handheld hair dryer or a salon hood dryer to dry a client’s hair.
Bakers have been exposed to asbestos through asbestos-containing ovens. Asbestos may still be found today in older ovens. Asbestos was popularly used in ovens until the 1970s and 1980s. It was used to insulate the thermal load of the oven. However, newer ovens no longer contain asbestos.
Asbestos was located in ovens that were commonly used by many bakers. Some of these bakers held occupations as bread makers, pastry chefs, and pizza makers.
Many pizza ovens used asbestos in the form of transite blocks, which formed the bottom of the oven. When a baker would cook a pizza, they would lay the pizza directly on top of these transite blocks.
To be exposed to asbestos, a baker would have had to disturb the asbestos located in an oven that contained asbestos materials. As long as asbestos remains sealed and bound tightly, it holds no threat. However, if a baker cleaned an older oven, they may have been exposed to asbestos. A baker could have been exposed if they scraped, brushed, or swept an oven that contained asbestos related materials. When a baker performed these actions while cleaning the oven, they created dust that contained asbestos.
If a baker tried to repair or move an older oven that contained asbestos, they may have been exposed. Though it is unlikely, older ovens may still contain asbestos.
Many cases of asbestos exposure come from an industrial setting, but in some instances office workers have been exposed to asbestos. Workers who worked in asbestos contaminated office spaces, schools, or other business buildings were put at risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
Up until the 1970s many buildings were constructed with building materials that contained asbestos.
A few of the building construction materials that contained asbestos were:
- Ceiling and flooring tiles
- Insulation used to cover furnaces, hot water, and steam pipes
- Textured painted and patching compounds used on walls and ceilings
- Roofing shingles
- Siding shingles
Teachers and other white-collar workers may still be exposed to asbestos today because there are still many buildings that contain it. School buildings that were built between the years of 1940 and 1970, most likely still contain asbestos.
Some teachers and white-collar workers are exposed to asbestos during building renovations and building maintenance. Other people are exposed when asbestos containing materials become worn, damaged, or disturbed in other ways.
For example, in the United Kingdom, a teacher was exposed to asbestos when she changed the art displays at her school. Each time that she moved the drawing pins around and placed them into new areas of the school’s asbestos-lined walls, she unknowingly released asbestos fibers into the air. Researchers believe that each drawing pin was capable of releasing over 6,000 asbestos fibers each time it went into the school’s wall.
Asbestos used to be commonly used by both jewelry artists and jewelry repairman. Believe it or not, many jewelers used to keep loose asbestos fibers in bowls or buckets in their shops. They would take the asbestos fibers and wet them, which would cause the asbestos fibers to form a clay-like substance. Jewelry artists and jewelry repairman would then use the asbestos clay-like substance to hold things together for soldering.
It was also common for jewelry artists and repairmen to create soldering pads or plates that would be used to create molds. When jewelry workers would cut asbestos plates used during soldering, asbestos fibers would be blown into the air and would settle in their workshop.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is found in rock and soil. Many gemstones or crystals that jewelry artists or repairmen may have worked with, might have contained asbestos.
Traces of asbestos has been linked to the following gemstones or crystals:
- Tiger’s Eye
At the end of working hours, a jewelry artist, repairman, or other worker in their shop would sweep the workshop floor. When this action was performed, the asbestos fibers were disturbed and released in the air again while they were swept up.
Asbestos was a commonly used ingredient in many castings made by both dentists and dental assistants. Asbestos was often found in the dental lining tape used to make the castings. Though the concentrations of asbestos that were used in dental practice were within federal guidelines of usage, that doesn’t mean that both dentists and dental assistants aren’t at risk for developing mesothelioma or other forms of an asbestos-related illness.
Asbestos related material was often used in the crafting of casting rings.
Casting rings were used to make:
- Dental inlays
- Removable dentures
To craft many molds used by either a dentist or dental assistant, it would require the use of extreme heat to create and melt the metal used to create the molding. Due to asbestos being such a great heat and flame resistor, it was used in the lining of these casting rings.
Both dentists and dental assistants may have been exposed to asbestos any time that they:
- Mixed powders
- Removed castings from molds
- Grinded and polished castings and porcelain
- Used silica sand for abrasive blasting
There have also been cases where dental assistants may have been exposed to asbestos while making replicas of teeth. These replicas were created out of wax while using dental tape that contained asbestos.
Being exposed to asbestos typically occurs to an individual in an industrial setting, however, it isn’t uncommon for bystanders to come in contact with asbestos that becomes airborne. For example, dust from asbestos production plants or mines sometimes floated through the air to nearby neighborhoods and towns. People who lived nearby some industrial facilities are at a higher risk for developing asbestos related diseases.
Asbestos can be released into the air by:
- Building demolitions
- Asbestos manufacturers
Many mesothelioma victims do not remember or do not realize that they were exposed to asbestos. Sometimes an individual was exposed to asbestos through secondary exposure.
Secondary exposure occurs when an individual exposes others to asbestos by carrying asbestos fibers on their clothes, skin, or hair. If an employee spent time around a worker that was exposed to asbestos materials, there is a chance that they were exposed to asbestos as well. Workers also could have unknowingly carried these asbestos fibers home with them and could have exposed their families.
Some people may come in contact with natural asbestos in the environment. Asbestos is actually a group of naturally occurring minerals. It consists of six silicate mineral types that are carcinogenic to humans. Most naturally occurring asbestos is located deep in the ground. If for some reason it becomes too close to the earth’s surface, it can be a threat to individuals that are within its vicinity.
In 2015, researchers studied data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States from 1999 - 2010. They discovered that an unusual amount of young individuals and women from Southern Nevada were being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Many of the people that were diagnosed with mesothelioma in Southern Nevada were 55 years old or younger. Usually mesothelioma occurs in older people because it takes 20 to 50 years to develop in an individual.
Researchers came to the conclusion that due to many of Southern Nevada natives being diagnosed with mesothelioma at such a young age, that they were most likely exposed to asbestos unknowingly from the environment. Southern Nevada is known for having a lot of construction, a dry climate, dust storms, and for many individuals using off-road recreational vehicles. All of these factors have the potential to cause asbestos fibers to become airborne.
Though it is rare, exposure to asbestos can also occur in the form of water contamination. If rainfall pushes dirt down a mountain or hillside, naturally occurring asbestos has the potential to contaminate natural waterways such as rivers or lakes.