Asbestos facts

Asbestos has been mined and used commercially in the U.S. since the late 1800s, according to the National Cancer Institute website. For nearly a century, asbestos was one of the most popular materials used in various industries and applications.

Although the negative health effects of asbestos have been discovered and it virtually has been eliminated from all industrial products, it still exists in the U.S.

Following are some facts about asbestos:

  • Asbestos use peaked in the 1960s and phased out in the early 1970s; however, in 1973, the U.S. used 813,000 metric tons of it, and there were more than 3,000 asbestos products in use in the U.S.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that between 1940 and 1980, 27 million American workers were exposed to asbestos on the job.
  • Asbestos-containing materials are estimated to remain in most of the 107,000 primary and secondary schools and 733,000 public and commercial buildings in the U.S.
  • During the 20th century, one of the highest-risk jobs for asbestos exposure was working in a shipyard, which especially took its toll during World War II; there were 4.3 million shipyard workers during World War II.
  • About 1.3 million U.S. workers still are exposed to asbestos on the job.
  • It is estimated that about 10,000 Americans die each year from illnesses caused by asbestos exposure; this year, it is expected 2,000 of those 10,000 people will die from lung cancer, which is considered the second greatest asbestos-related cancer after mesothelioma.
  • In 1989, EPA banned all new uses of asbestos; however, uses developed before 1989 still are allowed.
  • Domestic consumption of asbestos has dropped from 813,000 metric tons in 1973 to 2,400 metric tons in 2005.
  • After 9/11, a study found that nearly 70 percent of World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers suffered new or worse respiratory symptoms while working at the Ground Zero site; asbestos was used to build the World Trade Center's North Tower, so the attack released hundreds of tons of asbestos.
  • It can take 10 to 40 years or more for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear.

This Web exclusive information is a supplement to Safe Solutions.