Asbestos had many uses in manufacturing, due to its resistance to heat and fire as well as its durability. Asbestos was widely used in pumps for many gases or liquids, pumps found in homes, office buildings and Navy ships. During World War II, ship building greatly increased. Many pumps containing asbestos were used on these ships, for propulsion as well as heating and cooling. Shipyard workers and sailors were frequently exposed to asbestos. In the case of buildings, pumps for heating and cooling tend to have high levels of the mineral.
Asbestos exposure can cause the development of asbestosis and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the protective linings of the heart, abdomen and lungs. Mesothelioma is a somewhat rare cancer. About 2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year in the United States.
People who have experienced heavy, prolonged or excessive exposure to asbestos are at risk for developing asbestosis or mesothelioma. People who have worked manufacturing or installing pumps as well as people who sold or used the pumps are at risk for these diseases. Heavy exposure to asbestos does not necessarily mean that one will develop asbestosis or mesothelioma. People who have been exposed to asbestos only briefly have developed asbestosis or mesothelioma. However, there are also people who have been exposed to asbestos heavily for many years and do not have health problems due to asbestos exposure.
In the past, when a worker was manufacturing or installing pumps containing asbestos, the worker was not required to wear protective gear to minimize their asbestos exposure. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set limits on the acceptable levels of asbestos exposure. OSHA now enforces a strict policy stating that people who work with asbestos must wear protective gear to limit their exposure.