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Asbestos Exposure in the United States

For decades, asbestos was one of the most popular materials in construction and commercial products due to its fire-resistant properties. By the time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prevented new products from entering the market with a partial ban, researchers estimated that more than 100 million American employees had been exposed to the carcinogen in the workplace. Over 3,500 commercial products contained the mineral in 1989, when the EPA tried to wholly ban the mineral. Today, though rare, more than 2,000 people die in the U.S. each year from mesothelioma. In every state, retired workers in the following industries are experiencing complications from asbestos exposure:

  • Boatbuilding
  • Petroleum refining
  • Industrial chemicals
  • Mineral mining and manufacturing
  • Electric and gas generation and distribution
  • Water transportation
  • U.S. Navy
  • Architectural and engineering services
  • Construction

Between 2003 and 2008, 1.05 mesothelioma cases were diagnosed for every 100,000 Americans. Previously, experts believed the number of cases would decline over time, as fewer people were exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Yet, the total number of cases diagnosed each year has remained the same – though asbestos manufacturing ended more than 30 years ago. Typically, the states with the highest number of asbestos-related deaths also have high population counts, such as:

However, states with the highest rate of asbestos-related death more often have lower overall populations, including:

  • Maine: 9.9 asbestos-related deaths per 100,000 people
  • West Virginia: 8.8 deaths per 100,000 people
  • Delaware: 7.5 deaths per 100,000 people

Asbestos Exposure in the Eastern U.S.

The Eastern states contain a number of asbestos exposure hazards, across a wide range of possible exposure sites (such as occupational, commercial, or in the home). One of the culprits comes from a hundred-year-old mine in Libby, Montana, responsible for most of the manufacturing of asbestos in the country. Ohio alone received over 445,000 tons of carcinogenic material. Additionally, Eastern states like North Carolina (27 former mines), Georgia (17), Pennsylvania (4), and Maryland (4) had several mines in operation for decades. Another major source of exposure was the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Asbestos from the falling buildings caused permanent respiratory damage among first responders (like firefighters, EMTs, police officers) and volunteers.

States with the highest rates of asbestos-related deaths in the Eastern U.S. include:

StateAsbestos-related deaths from 1999 – 2017Rate of related deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 – 2017County with most related deaths
Maine2,4909.9York
West Virginia3,0728.8Kanawha
Delaware1,2567.5New Castle

Malignant mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure that generally doesn’t present symptoms until 30 to 40 years after exposure, is most prevalent in Eastern states. Between 1999 and 2004, for example, over a thousand people died of the disease in Pennsylvania and Florida each. Moreover, Maine ranked second in the country in terms of age-adjusted years of potential life lost. The highest number of years of life lost per mesothelioma death across the U.S. were all in Eastern states:

  • Vermont: 16.8 years lost per death
  • Arkansas: 16.5 years
  • Tennessee: 16 years

Asbestos Exposure in the Central U.S.

As reported by federal geological surveys, the occurrence of asbestos is uncommon among states in the middle of the country. Few mineral deposits exist in the area and only five sites in the entire region were prospects for mining – none moved into development. Texas, with two potential sites, had the most prospective mining sites followed by Missouri, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Yet, the Libby mine shipped hundreds of thousands of tons of the mineral to military and commercial construction sites in many parts of the region. Texas, for instance, received 681,000 tons of the carcinogen between 1948 and 1993. Other shipment sites investigated for hazardous conditions by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry include:

  • Dallas, Texas
  • Dearborn, Michigan
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Minot, North Dakota
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • St. Louis, Missouri

States with the highest rates of asbestos-related deaths in the Central U.S. include:

StateAsbestos-related deaths from 1999 – 2017Rate of related deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 – 2017County with most related deaths
Wisconsin6,8156.4Milwaukee
Minnesota6,3186.3Hennepin
Louisiana5,0925.9Jefferson Parish

Asbestos Exposure in the Rocky Mountain States

Though the major source of asbestos in the Rocky Mountain states came from the Libby, Montana, mines, deposits occur at several disparate sites in the Rocky Mountain states. Five sites became commercial mining operations in:

  • Idaho: Kamiah mine deposits were used to make pipe and boiler covers, wall plaster, paint, and a binding agent in cement and asphalt
  • Montana: Karst mine deposits produced refinery insulation, roofing asphalt compounds, and insulation
  • Wyoming: three mines (Fire King, Smith Creek, and Casper Mountain) produced asbestos material for chimneys and flooring

Also, military bases and commercial construction companies in the area received Libby asbestos shipments. For example, Denver, Colorado, (a city in close proximity to the Air Force’s largest training center) was surveyed for high levels of concentrated and breathable asbestos by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. On the western edge of the Rockies, Wyoming and Montana come in second and third in the nation in total years of life lost due to malignant mesothelioma. Lincoln County, Montana, had the third-highest death rate in the country for the disease between 2000 and 2004; 40 percent of the deaths were among women.

States with the highest rates of asbestos-related deaths in the Rock Mountain states include:

StateAsbestos-related deaths from 1999 – 2017Rate of related deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 – 2017County with most related deaths
Wyoming5496.9Natrona
Idaho1,4915.2Ada
Montana1,5208.2Lincoln

Asbestos Exposure in the Western U.S.

Asbestos exposure in the Western states includes commercial, military, and mining sites. Currently, California suffers more asbestos-related deaths than any other state (totaling 27,080 people between 1999 and 2017). Between 1948 and 1993, the state received over 5.9 million tons of asbestos for use in commercial products and construction, seriously affecting 24 different zip codes. From 1999 to 2004, 1,508 Californians died from malignant mesothelioma caused by their exposure to the hazardous mineral. Perhaps unsurprisingly, California is one of five states that held 65 percent of asbestos litigation jury trials (along with Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana, and Maryland).

States with the highest rates of asbestos-related deaths in the Western U.S. include:

StateAsbestos-related deaths from 1999 – 2017Rate of related deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 – 2017County with most related deaths
Washington9,2007.3King
Oregon4,7486.6Multnomah
Arizona5,1574.4Yavapai

Filing an Asbestos Legal Claim

If you or a family member have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a corporation may be responsible for your exposure to the dangerous material. Check out a free mesothelioma guide for more information on your opportunity to file a claim for financial compensation.

Mesothelioma is a life-altering diagnosis. Request your free Mesothelioma Guide and take all the information we have to offer, where ever you go.

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