How can workers protect themselves from asbestos exposure?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a component of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and is the Federal agency responsible for health and safety regulations in maritime, construction, manufacturing, and service workplaces. OSHA established regulations dealing with asbestos exposure on the job, specifically in construction work, shipyards, and general industry, that employers are required to follow. In addition, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), another component of DOL, enforces regulations related to mine safety. Workers should use all protective equipment provided by their employers and follow recommended workplace practices and safety procedures. For example, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved respirators that fit properly should be worn by workers when required.

Workers who are concerned about asbestos exposure in the workplace should discuss the situation with other employees, their employee health and safety representative, and their employers. If necessary, OSHA can provide more information or make an inspection. Information about regional offices can also be found on OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html.

More information about asbestos is available on OSHA’s Asbestos page, which has links to information about asbestos in the workplace, including what OSHA standards apply, the hazards of asbestos, evaluating asbestos exposure, and controls used to protect workers. OSHA’s national office can be contacted at:


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Office of Public Affairs
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
202–693–1999
1–800–321–6742 (1–800–321–OSHA)
1–877–889–5627 (TTY)
https://www.osha.gov/workers (workers’ page)

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is another Federal agency that is concerned with asbestos exposure in the workplace. NIOSH conducts asbestos-related research, evaluates work sites for possible health hazards, and makes exposure control recommendations. In addition, NIOSH distributes publications on the health effects of asbestos exposure and can suggest additional sources of information. NIOSH can be contacted at:

Education and Information Division
Information Resources Branch
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
1–800–CDC–INFO (1–800–232–4636)
https://www.cdc.gov/niosh

Selected References

1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Public Health Statement for Asbestos. September 2001. Retrieved April 18, 2017.

2. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for Asbestos. September 2001. Retrieved April 18, 2017.

3. National Toxicology Program. Asbestos. In: Report on Carcinogens. Fourteenth Edition. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program, 2016.

4. Ullrich RL. Etiology of cancer: Physical factors. In: DeVita VT Jr., Hellman S, Rosenberg SA, editors. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. Vol. 1 and 2. 7th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2004.

5. U.S. Geological Survey. Mineral Commodity Summaries, January 2016: Asbestos. Retrieved April 18, 2017.

6. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Health Effects of Asbestos. Retrieved April 18, 2017.

7. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Health Effects Assessment for AsbestosSeptember 1984. EPA/540/1-86/049 (NTIS PB86134608). Retrieved April 18, 2017.

8. IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risk to Humans. Arsenic, Metals, Fibres and DustsExit Disclaimer. Lyon (FR): International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2012. (IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, No. 100C.)

9. O’Reilly KMA, McLaughlin AM, Beckett WS, et al. Asbestos-related lung disease. American Family Physician 2007; 75(5):683–688. [PubMed Abstract]

10. Landrigan PJ, Lioy PJ, Thurston G, et al. Health and environmental consequences of the World Trade Center disaster. Environmental Health Perspectives 2004; 112(6):731–739. [PubMed Abstract]

11. Goldberg M, Luce D. The health impact of nonoccupational exposure to asbestos: what do we know? European Journal of Cancer Prevention 2009; 18(6):489-503. [PubMed Abstract]

12. Testa JR, Cheung M, Pei J, et al. Germline BAP1 mutations predispose to malignant mesothelioma. Nature Genetics 2011; 43(10):1022-1025. [PubMed Abstract]

Source: National Cancer Institute.

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