People at Risk of Exposure to Asbestos

Industrial Workers: Asbestos Product Manufacturing

All workers in industries where asbestos fiber was incorporated into the company’s products, such as manufacturers of insulation, roofing, building materials, etc., prior to adequate safety controls were at risk of developing asbestos disease. This includes those not in direct contact with production such as secretaries and executives in adjoining offices, and spouses and family members of workers who wore asbestos laden work clothes home unaware that it could pose a risk.

Utility Workers
Workers involved in the operation and maintenance of utility powerhouses, and other facilities and equipment of electric and gas utilities were exposed to asbestos products. Utility powerhouses in particular involved miles of steam piping which was insulated with asbestos products, as well as boilers many stories high which, together with feedwater heaters, pumps, conveyors, condensers, turbine-generators, and auxiliary equipment, were also assembled with and insulated with asbestos products. Everyone working in such facilities risked significant asbestos exposure because of ongoing repairs, maintenance, overhaul, and conversion, not to mention being present during the construction of new units. The asbestos dust and fiber from the asbestos products used to insulate, assemble, seal, and line all this piping and equipment was readily carried through the plant by drafts, convection created by the hot equipment, and the fact that only metal grating and not solid flooring separated the elevations of these huge structures. Utility workers involved in maintenance of sub-stations, underground cable and steam lines also risked exposure to asbestos products.

Shipyard Workers
People who worked in shipyards during World War II or in the post-war years were at risk of asbestos exposure. The new construction, overhaul, and repair of Navy, Merchant and other ships caused friable asbestos products to be present in the confined spaces, and engine and boiler rooms of ships resulting in asbestos exposure to all trades working in these areas.

Construction & Building Trades

Union members and retirees of many trades encountered hazardous asbestos products in doing their work, as well as the asbestos products being used by other trades working nearby, during the construction, renovation, and repair of various industrial, commercial, military, education, governmental, and other job sites. Mechanical systems, including piping, duct work and equipment, were assembled with, sealed with and/or insulated with asbestos products. Structural steel and decking were fireproofed and sound proofed with asbestos sprays. Components of walls, roofing, electrical wiring and flooring contained asbestos through the 1970’s and, in some cases, even later.

Maintenance Workers & Non-Union Crafts

Auto and Truck Brake & Clutch Mechanics

Those who made a career of servicing auto and/or truck brakes and clutches may have been exposed to sufficient asbestos dust to cause disease.

Residential and Commercial Plumbing & Heating Contractors and Oil Burner Service

Mechanics who worked for, or operated a plumbing and heating contract or jobbing business, or worked in oil burner installation and service, may have had considerable asbestos exposure, even if the work was mostly residential. Residential boilers, furnaces, and hot water heaters, installed up through the 1970’s were often assembled, sealed, and/or insulated with asbestos products as was the attendant piping.

Trades at Risk:


Sheetmetal Workers


Plumbers & Pipefitters

Masons & Bricklayers



Carpenters & Joiners





Operating Engineers








Union Members at Risk:

Heat & Frost Insulators & Asbestos Workers Union

Sheetmetal Workers


Bricklayer and Allied Craftworkers/BAC

Steamfitters and Pipefitters





Workers at Refineries, Chemical Plants, Pharmaceutical, Food, and Beverage Plants

These industries often utilize high temperature/high pressure processes and required lots of steam and process pipelines, which in and prior to the 1970’s meant piping, vessels, tanks, reactors, heat exchangers, boilers, roasters, ovens, driers, furnaces, pumps and other equipment insulated, assembled, and/or sealed with asbestos products. Those involved in maintenance, repair, construction, and turnaround of the production units risked exposure to asbestos products, as well as workers in the vicinity of these operations.

Union Members at Risk:


Chemical & Atomic Workers/OCAW

Independent Chemical Workers Union GMP

United Steel Workers



Workers in Metal Refining Operations, Foundries, and Steel Mills
In addition to the insulated pipelines, boilers and similar equipment common to heavy industry, workers in metal refineries, foundries, and steel mills may have been exposed to the high temperature refractory linings of furnaces, smelters, launders, ladles, and similar equipment, some of which were composed of asbestos products, which were frequently in need of replacement and repair. In addition, asbestos gloves, leggings, and aprons were worn by workers near molten metals. Asbestos cloth and blankets were used to moderate the cooling of metal castings.