Secondary Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma
Secondary asbestos exposure occurs when a worker who comes in contact with asbestos during the course of his or her employment inadvertently brings microscopic asbestos fibers home, putting family members at risk.
Secondary asbestos exposure can have the same effect as primary asbestos exposure, which is the development of mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Prior to stricter regulations being enacted in the 1970’s, asbestos workers (who were more likely to be men) often brought asbestos fibers home on their clothing, shoes and tools. As a result, women and children are more likely to be diagnosed with secondary asbestos exposure.
It is important to know that any level of exposure to asbestos can be dangerous. In many instances, secondary asbestos exposure is just as dangerous as primary asbestos exposure.
Those who are repeatedly exposed to asbestos, even in a secondary manner, can develop extremely serious asbestos-related diseases.
As far back as 1897, doctors were aware of secondary asbestos exposure, noting instances of ill health among family members of the workers who labored in asbestos-related industries. Unfortunately, the United States did not really begin to recognize secondary asbestos exposure until some time in the 1960’s.
Although secondary asbestos exposure is not nearly as common as it was thirty, forty, or fifty years ago, it can still occur.
Today, employers must provide their employees who are exposed to asbestos facilities where they can shower and changes their clothing prior to leaving work, in order to minimize the potential for carrying asbestos fibers into their homes. The employers have special laundering services which clean the contaminated clothing, so workers can then re-wear their clothing.
There are three primary sources of secondary asbestos exposure in a worker’s home. These include:
- Laundry—Clothing of workers contaminated with asbestos fibers which was, in the past, usually washed by the worker’s wife, or another family member. Regular washing machines will not remove asbestos from contaminated clothing, rather the asbestos fibers will become airborne, contaminating other clothing, and being breathed in by those who do the laundry.
- Furniture contamination—If a worker wears clothing contaminated with asbestos fibers home, those fibers can become embedded in chairs, bedding, couches, carpeting and other household items.
- Personal contact—When workers bring asbestos fibers home in their clothing, hair and skin, then hug a family member, this exposes family members to asbestos. In fact, a number of children developed mesothelioma after sitting in their dad or grandad’s lap when he came home after work.
While it is not common, there have been instances where secondary asbestos exposure approached occupational levels—usually when the employee worked in a high asbestos exposure industry, such as mining, insulating, building ships or working construction. According to asbestos.com, there have been many documented cases of secondary asbestos exposure, such as:
- A ten-fold increase in the risk of mesothelioma was found among women who had received secondary asbestos exposure (as compared to the general population) was concluded in a 1978 study. Most of the women in the study who ended up developing mesothelioma as a result of secondary asbestos exposure laundered the clothing of an asbestos insulator.
- In 1997, another study found that only 19 percent of women who developed mesothelioma received direct exposure through their own occupation—the remainder received asbestos exposure from a spouse or other loved one who worked in an asbestos-related industry.
- As recently as 2017, a study done in Italy found that of 1,063 cases of mesothelioma, 35 were from indirect, second hand asbestos exposure. Of those 35, 33 were women. The primary source of asbestos exposure in this study was asbestos fibers unknowingly brought home from men who worked in shipyards.
Unfortunately, only a few states have historically awarded compensation to victims of secondary asbestos exposure, primarily because determining liability in secondary asbestos exposure cases can be complex, particularly if the loved one who inadvertently brought asbestos fibers into the home has since died.
These cases require an experienced asbestos personal injury attorney who can clearly connect the dots between the worker’s primary asbestos exposure, and the family member’s secondary asbestos exposure.
Have You Been Diagnosed with Mesothelioma?
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma because of secondary exposure, it is important to speak to an experienced mesothelioma attorney to review your case.
If your asbestos exposure was caused by your loved one’s job, you may be entitled to compensation.
At Landry & Swarr, our attorneys can help hold negligent employers accountable and pursue maximum compensation, so you have the money you need during this difficult time.
If you would like a no-obligation consultation please contact us today. You can reach us by telephone at 866-275-8706 or come by our offices at 1010 Common St, Suite 2050 New Orleans, LA 70112.