Direct, sustained asbestos exposure accounts for the most significant rates of mesothelioma development. Although far more men statistically develop mesothelioma, indicating an apparent sex bias, this in fact is a misunderstanding. It is in actuality men’s past role in careers that involved direct asbestos exposure that accounts for this uneven disease rate. Men traditionally undertook the construction, assembly and military careers that have demonstrated the highest rates of asbestos exposure.
World War II
However, women did undergo direct exposure in some instances. During World War II, women’s increased role in the manufacturing and production of wartime transportation vehicles and equipment led to increased rates of direct exposure. Shipbuilding, especially, posed some of the greatest asbestos exposure risks, as fireproofing was an essential element of these vessels. If improperly insulated, an uncontrolled fire could cost an entire vessel’s crew their lives, as they were frequently out at sea, away from the help of others.
Asbestos in Home Construction
Even after World War II ended and most women returned to their traditional role as homemaker, their direct asbestos exposure risks remained high as many new homes were constructed with this material. Until the 1970s, asbestos remained a popular material in home construction for numerous purposes, including insulation, decorative materials and flooring products. As these women came into contact with these sources of asbestos, frequently loosening them by cleaning, they increased their chances of developing mesothelioma. Furthermore, their homemaking role saw these women spend the majority of their time in these potentially-hazardous environments, which also contributes to one’s chances of developing mesothelioma.
Asbestos in Schools
Besides their wartime role in the production of military goods, women also frequently found employment in other fields in great numbers during asbestos’ heavy usage. One of these fields was education. Unfortunately, schools frequently contained friable asbestos, which can be broken into small fibers that can enter the air and be inhaled. Possible sources of this friable asbestos include boiler pipe wrap, ceiling tiles and wall board. Again, women’s prolonged exposure to these sources of asbestos contributed to their chances of developing mesothelioma.