Asbestos causes a range of health conditions, which is why the government put restrictions on its use decades ago. By the time those regulations set in, though, there were already consequences. People working in various industries in Illinois already had enough exposure to cause health issues.

The highest exposure to asbestos occurred between 1940 and 1979, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Unfortunately, the effects of exposure do not become apparent for decades, so we are only now beginning to see the aftermath.

Occupational exposure

First-hand exposure typically came from working in specific industries. Asbestos is harmful when someone disturbs it and causes the dust to float in the air. The person then inhales it, and particles end up in the lungs. This is why asbestos-related illnesses usually happen in the lungs. Some professions that led to severe exposure included mining, construction, manufacturing and welding.

While industries do not use asbestos in a wide capacity now, it is still present in older buildings. Use may also occur in the making of some products, and you can find it in nature. This means there are still some occupations that risk exposure, such as auto mechanics, miners and construction workers.

Secondary exposure

It is not only those who worked directly with the substance who risk having health problems. Secondary exposure is a genuine issue. Workers used to come home covered in asbestos, which exposed their families to it. Those who lived around factories, refineries, power plants, demolition sites and other places with asbestos or the use of asbestos had exposure through the air.

Today, construction is the one industry that still has the highest levels of exposure. Despite regulations and a focus on safety and restrictions, it is impossible to limit all asbestos exposure. Still, the knowledge available about how this substance affects the body helps to minimize the effects.