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How can someone get an asbestos-related disease without being around asbestos?

Secondary exposure occurs when a person is not in direct contact with a source of asbestos. It is equally dangerous as occupational asbestos exposure and can be either domestic or environmental.

answered by Gregory A. Cade

While asbestos exposure was mostly occupational, secondary asbestos exposure was also common during the last century

Between 1920 and 1980, asbestos was present in numerous industries throughout the country, which inevitably led to heavy exposure among workers. By virtue of the multiple convenient properties it has, such as fire resistance, asbestos was a very popular material during the last century. Furthermore, it was also very cheap, which prompted a large number of companies to use it for the manufacturing of various products or as insulation for machinery and equipment. When asbestos fibers are released in the air, exposure is bound to occur in the absence of adequate protective equipment. However, before 1980, people who handled asbestos on their job were not provided with any protective equipment to prevent exposure, which is why today, 20% of former industrial workers struggle with a disease as a consequence of occupational asbestos exposure. There were over 75 industries in which asbestos was present in great amounts. If you are not sure whether you were exposed to asbestos on the job, here are the occupations which entailed heavy asbestos exposure:



Nevertheless, secondary asbestos exposure was also a common occurrence among the family members of industrial workers. 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. Finally, secondary asbestos exposure would also occur by using the same furniture as industrial workers who have not changed their work clothes before using it, as asbestos fibers have a rough texture and can easily become embedded in the fabric.

Secondary asbestos exposure from the environment

Another way one can experience secondary asbestos exposure is by living in close proximity to a facility that uses asbestos. The case of the 200 Libby, Montana residents who lost their lives to secondary asbestos exposure because their houses were located nearby a vermiculite mine is a good example in this case. Because vermiculite occurs in close proximity to asbestos in the earth, exposure was inevitable both for miners and for the people who lived nearby. Over 2,500 residents were exposed to asbestos from the vermiculite mine. Nevertheless, environmental secondary asbestos exposure can also occur when a person lives in close proximity to a construction or demolition site, as structures that were built before 1980 contain asbestos and, by disturbing it, exposure is bound to occur.

Veterans and secondary asbestos exposure

The military is notorious for having employed tremendous amounts of asbestos during the last century, particularly the U.S. Navy. Over 300 different asbestos products were present aboard each ship before 1980 when proper regulations concerning asbestos use finally came into effect. Thereby, veterans were heavily exposed to asbestos if they had to work with the mineral themselves. By handling asbestos or asbestos products such as construction materials, asbestos fibers are unavoidably released in the air, from where anyone who is nearby the source can inhale or ingest these. Today, approximately 30% of veterans struggle with a disease as a result of military asbestos exposure.

However, there are numerous veterans who have not worked with asbestos products themselves, yet still developed a disease as a consequence of asbestos exposure. These veterans were the victims of secondary asbestos exposure which, in the military, would occur when a person was spending a lot of time nearby people who directly handled asbestos. On Navy ships, the heaviest asbestos exposure occurred in the damage control room, the pump room, the engine room, and the propulsion room. Whether one was performing work tasks involving asbestos or was just present in one of these areas of the ship, exposure was bound to occur to a certain extent.

People who developed a disease as a result of secondary asbestos exposure are eligible for compensation

If you struggle with a disease that developed as a consequence of secondary asbestos exposure, you have the right to take legal action against the liable parties. While secondary asbestos exposure cases are significantly more complex than those which entail occupational or military asbestos exposure, our attorneys will strive to recover the maximum compensation you are entitled to. With over 25 years of experience in providing legal assistance to victims of asbestos exposure, our attorneys specialize in toxic exposure cases and will help you file a claim with the asbestos trust fund of the company for which your family member worked. Furthermore, if more than one employer was responsible for your secondary asbestos exposure, we will file a claim with each of their asbestos trust funds to obtain the largest sum of money you qualify for. If you are a veteran who experienced secondary asbestos exposure while serving in the military, we will also file a claim with the VA, as they provide disability compensation for veterans injured by asbestos exposure as well. It is important to keep in mind that asbestos exposure cases have a statute of limitations of 3 years in the majority of states, so it is a good idea to take legal action as soon as you receive your diagnosis, otherwise you may lose your right to seek financial compensation.

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