Farmers and Mesothelioma: Exposure to Asbestos in Agriculture

Updated Nov 9, 2022 

Studies show low risks for malignant mesothelioma (MM) in agricultural workers. However, a 2021 report from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health indicated asbestos exposure scenarios in the agricultural environment.

The information above highlights the need to determine asbestos exposure among individuals with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of respiratory cancer that usually arises from asbestos exposure.

Like other types of cancer, there are different mesothelioma stages, each causing various symptoms that can worsen as the tumor grows and spreads. 

Meanwhile, how can asbestos exposure affect farmers’ risk of developing mesothelioma? What are some ways farmers and agricultural workers can manage mesothelioma?

This article discusses asbestos exposure in agriculture and how it can increase the risk of mesothelioma incidences among farmers. This article also suggests ways farmers can combat mesothelioma.

How Do Farmers Expose Themselves to Asbestos?

Farmers and other agricultural workers may experience asbestos exposure via farming tools, building materials, and their environment.

People used vermiculite for various products, including potting soils, fireproofing materials, and brake linings.

Asbestos can contaminate vermiculite sources because these minerals usually form side by side.

Like asbestos, vermiculite is a natural mineral with heat-resistant and insulating properties. But unlike asbestos, vermiculite, in its natural form, doesn’t endanger human health.

In 2000, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studied vermiculite-containing gardening products in the country. Out of the 38 vermiculite products examined, 17 of them contained asbestos.

Additionally, 15 of those asbestos-containing items were soil mix products. Farmers may use vermiculite in the following ways:

  • Animal feed

  • Seed germination

  • Fertilizer

  • Pesticides

  • Potting mix

  • Root cuttings

  • Seed encapsulation

  • Soil conditioner

  • Sowing composts

Asbestos in Soil

Farming is dusty because you’ll need to disturb the soil almost daily. This situation may endanger agricultural workers’ health.

If there is asbestos in the soil, this may increase the mesothelioma risk for farmers.

Asbestos in the ground may come from contaminants such as vermiculite.

Moreover, although asbestos is not widely present in the soil, some specific locations with higher quantities of the mineral can threaten farmers’ health.

For instance, scientists observed that the areas of southern Nevada have significant amounts of asbestos in the soil. These regions are near farms and can put workers at risk.

Experts also noted that the contaminated soil may have contributed to higher-than-average rates of mesothelioma cases in younger people and women in the region.

Another survey examining naturally occurring asbestos in California suggested an increased number of mesothelioma cases among nearby farmers.

Asbestos in Buildings and Farm Equipment

Farmers may also encounter asbestos in construction supplies and farm equipment.

These individuals can come across asbestos due to the following structures and materials:

  • Boilers

  • Cement board and pipe

  • Flooring materials

  • Electrical conduits

  • Fireproofing materials

  • Roofing materials

  • Insulation

  • Pipe covering

Many farms in the U.S. contain asbestos building materials.

People looking for reclaimed wood from barns and farms should know that these products can also contain asbestos. The wood may have paint or varnish containing asbestos insulation traces.

Moreover, many types of machinery and tools used asbestos in the past and even today.

Individuals used asbestos in tractors' brakes and clutches to prevent friction-induced overheating. Here are some examples of farming equipment that may contain asbestos:

  • Vehicle hood liners

  • Under sprays

  • Gaskets and seals

  • Insulating panels

Aside from farmers, workers who operate and repair farm equipment may be also exposed to asbestos.

This scenario can happen because asbestos fibers can release airborne particles when workers remove and swap out components.

When inhaled, these fibers can cause asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.

How Farmers Can Combat Mesothelioma

  • Testing the soil for asbestos

  • Supplying personnel with protective equipment when working with asbestos

  • Providing workers with safety training for handling asbestos

  • Identifying the locations of any asbestos in farm buildings

  • Maintain security by routinely inspecting building materials for asbestos

  • Observing all state regulations for securing the removal or elimination of asbestos from structures.

On the other hand, if you were a farmer or worked on a farm and were subsequently diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible for compensation.

A lawyer with experience in such cases can assist you in identifying the negligent party. Frequently they are the producer of asbestos-containing insulation or vermiculite.

It is crucial to realize that anyone who unintentionally exposes themselves to asbestos can file a compensation claim.

Also, note that you do not need to be a citizen or a permanent resident of the country to seek compensation for your disease.

You may seek help from a knowledgeable mesothelioma or asbestos attorney to explain your alternatives and guide you through the process.


1. Mesothelioma in Agriculture in Lombardy, Italy: An Unrecognized Risk

2. EPA Study Shows Minimal Risk To Consumers Who Use Vermiculite in Gardening

3. The Presence of Asbestos in the Natural Environment is Likely Related to Mesothelioma in Young Individuals and Women from Southern Nevada

4. Residential Proximity to Naturally Occurring Asbestos and Mesothelioma Risk in California

Soil Health Farm Management