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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.

Secondary asbestos exposure occurs when a person who does not work with asbestos comes into contact with the toxic substance through the environment or through another person, often a family member. The mere contact with asbestos workers' clothes represents the most common secondary exposure to asbestos. The effects of indirect asbestos exposure are equally harmful as in the case of primary exposure to asbestos.

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.

Who is at risk for secondhand exposure?

Since they were not required to wear any protective equipment on the job, industrial workers would bring home significant amounts of asbestos on their clothes, skin, hair, and shoes, which led to secondary exposure. Women were particularly affected by secondary asbestos exposure, as they would often have to wash the work clothes of their husbands. By shaking the clothes, they would make the asbestos fibers which were lingering on the fabric become airborne, which is how secondary exposure occurred.

Over the years, women would inhale and ingest considerable amounts of asbestos, which now places them at high risk for developing a serious disease, such as lung cancer or mesothelioma, as secondary asbestos exposure is just as dangerous as direct asbestos exposure.

Children were also secondarily exposed to asbestos, as when they would greet their father upon returning home from work, they would inhale asbestos fibers from their clothes and skin. If children are exposed to asbestos indirectly at an early age, they may develop an asbestos-related illness in their adult years.

If you or a loved one has worked in one of the following job occupations it is possible that you may have been exposed to asbestos during your career, or from secondary exposure, putting your health at risk:

A 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.

One-fourth of mesothelioma cases occurred in women

Well-validated scientific evidence shows that regardless of the exposure source, there is no safe level of contact with asbestos. About 30 years ago, scientists observed that a single dose of asbestos fibers damages the mesothelium tissue and that persistent scarring led to mesothelioma. According to data from the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC), nearly 25% of mesothelioma cases in the U.S. occur in women.

Medical reports reveal that secondary asbestos exposure results in similar asbestos concentrations in the lungs as what researchers have observed in patients with past occupational exposures. Often, women are diagnosed at earlier ages and face different kinds of symptoms as the disease develops. Statistically, female patients experience a better response to treatment and longer survival rates.

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.