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Secondary asbestos exposure increases mesothelioma risk, according to recent study

By Shaniqua Williams

Posted on October 26th, 2017

A new study analyzed 1,063 mesothelioma cases and found that, regarding household members, the wives were affected in a shorter latency period than the sons and the daughters, while the average time between the initial exposure and the occurrence of the first symptoms was 59 years.

Most people are aware of the connection between exposure to asbestos and dangerous diseases such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. However, studies continue to examine the actual extent of the problem, which concerns both those who worked with asbestos products and their families.

Secondary asbestos exposure - a silent, patient killer

While the workplace was by far the most common place where people were exposed to asbestos before the 1970s, those who were not directly working with asbestos products were also at risk of coming in contact with this mineral. Today, this is known as secondary asbestos exposure. During the last century, secondary exposure mostly occurred when a person who was exposed to asbestos on the job brought home carcinogenic fibers by carrying them in their hair or on their clothes, thus contaminating other family members.

The classic scenario involved the asbestos worker returning home covered in asbestos dust or also brought home the contaminated work clothes that were cleaned by wives or daughters almost once a week. Dust was also brought home to family on the hair and skin. This could expose anyone living with someone who worked with asbestos. Secondary asbestos exposure is also known as domestic exposure. Even visitors who were in the house only for a short period of time were at risk.

Occasionally, environmental exposure in the neighborhood of industrial sources may also be referred to as secondary exposure, since in this case, the exposure to carcinogenic fibers does not occur by direct contact with the source of pollution either. Nowadays, environmental asbestos exposure is much rarer than it was in the past when many people lived in close proximity to asbestos plants, mines, or shipyards. Currently, environmental asbestos exposure may happen when old buildings are being renovated or demolished.

New study correlates secondary asbestos exposure with high mesothelioma risk

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Trieste analyzed 1,063 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed between 1995 and 2014. The aim of the research was to examine the attributes of pleural mesothelioma when the disease was caused by asbestos fibers brought home by a family member in order to gain a better understanding of the effects of secondary asbestos exposure.

Scientists discovered 35 cases of mesothelioma which developed as a result of secondary asbestos exposure that affected 33 women and 2 men. The cases refer to the following family members of asbestos workers:

  • 22 wives
  • 9 daughters
  • 2 mothers
  • 2 sons

The overall data confirms that secondary asbestos exposure increases the risk of developing mesothelioma in women with no history of occupational exposure. The wives were affected by mesothelioma in a relatively shorter time than the sons and the daughters, while the average time between the initial asbestos exposure and the occurrence of the first symptoms was 59 years. Sadly, due to the long latency period of this disease, there will likely be more mesothelioma cases related to secondary asbestos exposure in the near future.

How our asbestos exposure lawyers can help

Secondary asbestos exposure is just as dangerous to one's health as direct contact with asbestos. If you believe you may have been exposed to this hazardous mineral, we strongly advise you to seek medical assistance immediately.

Victims of secondary asbestos exposure are also eligible for financial compensation from asbestos trust funds, so we encourage you to consider your legal options. Sadly, mesothelioma is incurable and is known to be particularly painful. There is no known cure, but treatment can help improve the quality and length of the patient's life. Of course, no amount of compensation can make up for the pain and suffering that the sufferer and their family may endure.

However, compensation can help workers and their families to make the most of the time they have left. The compensation may help them:

  • Pay for medical treatment and care at home.
  • Be reassured that their family will be looked after once they are gone.
  • Achieve justice and closure for being wronged by negligently being exposed to asbestos for decades.

Providing assistance to asbestos victims since 1990, Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. has a dedicated team of attorneys and legal experts who handle mesothelioma cases to ensure our clients receive high-quality support and advice throughout the asbestos claim process.