The material is so widely used that the entire population has been exposed to some degree. Air, drinking water, and a variety of consumer products all may contain small amounts of asbestos. In addition, asbestos fibers are released into the environment from natural deposits in the earth and as a result of wear and deterioration of asbestos products. Disease is unlikely to result from a single, high-level exposure, or from a short period of exposure to lower levels of asbestos.
Medical services related to asbestos exposure may be available through the government for certain groups of eligible individuals. In general, individuals must pay for their own medical services unless they are covered by private or government health insurance. Some people with symptoms of asbestos-related illness may be eligible for Medicare coverage.
People with asbestos-related diseases may also qualify for financial help, including medical payments, under state workers' compensation laws. Because eligibility requirements vary from state to state, workers should contact the workers' compensation program in their state. Contact information for the workers' compensation program in each state may be found in the blue pages of a local telephone directory.
If exposure occurred during employment with a federal agency (military or civilian), medical expenses and other compensation may be covered by the Federal Employees' Compensation Program. Workers who are or were employed in a shipyard by a private employer may be covered under the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.
Workers may wish to contact their international union for information on other sources of medical help and insurance matters.
Eligible veterans and their dependents may receive healthcare at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. Treatment for service-connected and nonservice-connected conditions is provided. If the VA cannot provide the necessary medical care, they will arrange for enrolled veterans to receive care in their community.