The majority of people who develop mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos occupationally, either working directly with or around others working with asbestos-containing products. The risk is higher for people who have repeated exposure to asbestos for prolonged periods of time. Veterans and individuals working in construction and manufacturing trades are at the highest risk of developing mesothelioma because of the high prevalence of asbestos use in these occupations. Asbestos was a commonly-used mineral because of its resilience and heat-resistant properties. Many companies and manufactures continued to use it despite knowing the hazardous health effects associated with exposure to asbestos.
Additionally, family members or friends of individuals working in these occupations may have experienced secondary or second-hand exposure to asbestos when the worker brought the asbestos home on their contaminated clothing and/or equipment.