Since the early 1940s when asbestos use became popular in the United States, millions of Americans have been exposed to asbestos. Even today with all the government regulations surrounding asbestos use the National Cancer Institute states that everyone is exposed to asbestos throughout their lifetime. Because asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, trace elements can be found in the air, water and soil. These trace amounts of asbestos typically do not make people ill. It is those who have been exposed to asbestos over long periods of time who are most at risk for asbestos related diseases.
Often continual exposure to asbestos occurred on the job. People who become ill from asbestos may have worked directly with the material or been exposed through substantial environmental contact. Professions that have high levels of asbestos contact include shipbuilding trades, demolition workers, drywall removers, insulation work in the construction and building trades, asbestos removal workers, firefighters, and automobile workers. As Government regulations on asbestos improved work practices, workers in these fields today face smaller risks than those working in these fields in the early to mid 1900's.