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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 Mark L. Rowe

Out of the 2,600 residents of Libby, the infamous vermiculite site, 200 lost their lives to secondary asbestos exposure, while 1,000 are currently struggling with a disease

While exposure in the workplace represents the primary cause of asbestos-related diseases, it is not the only way someone can come in contact with airborne asbestos fibers. Secondary exposure refers to all circumstances in which contamination with asbestos occurs indirectly. Although it is considerably less common than occupational exposure, secondary asbestos exposure has been responsible for the death of thousands of people throughout the past decades. Even though the risk of developing a disease is higher if asbestos exposure took place on the job, as workers would regularly breathe tremendous concentrations of airborne fibers, it is not uncommon for people who were subjected to secondary exposure to be affected by mesothelioma or lung cancer as well.

There are two types of secondary asbestos exposure:

  • domestic exposure
  • environmental exposure

Domestic asbestos exposure is very rare nowadays in the U.S. However, it was very common before the 1980s, when asbestos would be present in numerous workplaces such as construction sites, shipyards, power plants, oil refineries or paper mills. Because asbestos companies were not concerned in the slightest regarding the safety of their employees, not only were workers not provided with protective equipment to wear on the job, but they were also not required to change their clothes before returning home. Due to their texture, asbestos fibers tend to stick to fabric and some former employees would be completely covered in asbestos dust at the end of the shift. This way, the family members of workers were indirectly exposed to asbestos on a regular basis. Domestic asbestos exposure would happen when the wives were washing their husbands' work clothes, as well as asbestos workers would hug their family members.

Environmental asbestos exposure is also infrequent today. In the past, residents who lived in proximity to asbestos mines, factories, plants, vermiculite mines or shipyards were at high risk of developing a serious disease as a result of prolonged secondary asbestos exposure, as was the case of Libby residents. Nowadays, environmental exposure may occur when old buildings are being demolished and toxic fibers are released from asbestos-containing products. Nevertheless, in most cases, strict safety regulations are followed in order to prevent contamination. Similarly, natural deposits of asbestos and buildings with asbestos-containing products may be disturbed by various human activities or natural phenomena, such as:

  • gardening
  • driving
  • riding a bicycle
  • hurricanes
  • floods
  • tornadoes
  • earthquakes

Victims of secondary asbestos exposure are also eligible for financial compensation. If you struggle with mesothelioma or lung cancer and have a loved one who worked with asbestos, there is a high chance secondary asbestos exposure is the culprit. We highly encourage you to contact Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. at (205) 328-9200 and our diligent lawyers will do all in their power to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

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