Most of us associate asbestos exposure with a workplace in which items containing asbestos are manufactured.

While it is true that the majority of those who develop mesothelioma—a cancer caused by repeated exposure to asbestos— were directly exposed to the substance, there are those who develop mesothelioma from “secondhand” exposure.


Shaker cases” of mesothelioma encompass those who have had no direct contact with asbestos, rather were exposed to it via contact with directly exposed people.

This type of asbestos exposure is also called “domestic exposure,” or “secondary household exposure.” Women are the most likely group to contract this type of secondary exposure mesothelioma, when their husbands, brothers, children or fathers—who worked in factories or shipyards which used asbestos—come home with the tiny, invisible fibers on their clothing.

Ways You Could Contract Mesothelioma Through Secondhand Exposure to Asbestos

It is common for women to then “shake” the asbestos dust from the clothing before washing, unaware they are also inhaling toxic asbestos fibers.

Additional ways to be exposed to secondhand asbestos is when a person who works with asbestos wears his or her work shoes or boots throughout the house and the fibers sink into the carpeting, when others in the family use the same vehicle as the person who works with asbestos, or even through hugging a person who works with asbestos.

Since there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure, this secondhand exposure can lead to a diagnosis of mesothelioma in the same way primary exposure can. Of course, there are other factors which will determine whether a person develops mesothelioma, including risk factors such as smoking, any type of pre-existing lung condition, and age.

Mesothelioma Shaker Cases More Common Than You Think

Shaker cases of mesothelioma caused by secondhand asbestos exposure are not nearly as uncommon as you might think. In one case, a man who worked as a tradesman for forty years in an industry which used asbestos died from mesothelioma, then after his death, his daughter was diagnosed with the disease.

Since mesothelioma typically takes many years to manifest, most people who are exposed to asbestos are not even aware they could be harboring the disease.

While the workforce of today is much more safety-oriented, there is still no guarantee that take-home exposure to asbestos does not still occur, therefore it is imperative that people be educated about the dangers, and aware of the risks.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Because mesothelioma takes so long to develop, it can be a difficult disease to detect and diagnose. Early detection is essential, however since mesothelioma affects the lung’s membranes—and sometimes other organs as well—you should be aware of the following symptoms of the disease:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Cough which persists for weeks or months
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Chest pain, particularly when coughing

If you have been exposed to asbestos, whether through primary or secondary exposure, see a doctor as soon as possible. Your healthcare provider may have x-rays, CT scans or other imaging techniques done in order to identify whether mesothelioma is present.

Because the statute of limitations to file a mesothelioma case can be as little as one year following the discovery of your mesothelioma, it is crucial that you contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney as soon as possible.

Obviously, receiving a mesothelioma settlement will not cure you or bring back a loved one, however it can help your financial situation, especially in paying the medical bills associated with mesothelioma.

Remember—despite the fact that federal laws have been established to decrease the risk of secondary asbestos exposure in the home, these laws are too little too late for those exposed many years ago.