Asbestos Exposure Among Laborers

Happy Labor Day!

You probably have your swim suit and sunscreen out and ready for a fun day off of work, but do you know why you aren’t working today? Labor day was created by the United States labor movement in 1882 and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers1. Laborers have made this country what it is today through their hard work, whether it be in factories, construction sites, Naval shipyards, or other industrial occupations.

navy ships

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership – the American worker.2

Many Americans are still unaware of the dangers our laborers face in the workplace, though. According to the World Health Organization, around 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in the workplace3. You might be wondering: if asbestos is legal to use in the United States, why does it pose such a danger to our workers?

Asbestos is the proven cause of asbestosis and mesothelioma, and a contributing factor in lung cancer development. These aggressive diseases take thousands of lives each year — an estimated 7,000 people died in the United States between 1999 and 2001 from mesothelioma cancer alone4. Many of America’s workers and their families were exposed to asbestos during its peak of use in the 20th century and are just beginning to experience the symptoms of their illnesses today. With latency periods of 10-50 years, diseases like these make it quite apparent why asbestos exposure is still dangerous for our workers.


Not only is past exposure a problem, but asbestos is still present in many of our corporate buildings, schools, construction sites, and more. Plumbers, pipefitters, mechanical engineers and electricians all hold occupations with a high risk for mesothelioma5 due to asbestos exposure.

So before you put on that swimsuit and apply your sunscreen on this 2013 Labor Day, take a moment to think about our past and present workers and how they have battled asbestos exposure in the workplace. And then celebrate them, because they truly deserve it.

Sources: 1 & 2, 3, 4 & 5