The use of asbestos is controversial because of the health risks associated with the substance. There is a ban in the United States from using it is residential construction, but that ban does not cover commercial construction, according to Occupational Health & Safety. In fact, it is widely used in commercial projects for cement, tiles, flooring, roofing, plumbing, duct work and insulation.
In addition, its use historically was quite high in the United States in all aspects of construction. Historical buildings especially pose a huge risk to workers. Demolition of any structure built prior to the 1970s is likely to contain quite a bit of asbestos, including homes. Even work on such structures poses a danger since it is possible original contractors used asbestos in many applications.
Even outside of construction, consumer products often contained the substance up to the 1980s. You can still find it in some products, such as talcum powder. Manufacturers also use it in some parts for motor vehicles.
Those most at risk are workers in specific industries where exposure is most likely. Mechanics who use products and parts containing the substance have some risk. High risk occurs for construction workers, especially those working on older structures or in demolition. Shipyard workers, industrial workers and those who work in manufacturing also all have some risk of exposure at levels that could be damaging to their health.
The best way to avoid asbestos exposure is to not work with the substance or use products containing it, but for many workers that is not possible. Safety agencies put special procedures in place to help minimize exposure risks and make workplaces that do involve asbestos safer.