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Household Members of Asbestos-Exposed Workers at Risk of Secondary Exposure

laundry mat and clothesHousehold Members of Asbestos-Exposed Workers at Risk of Mesothelioma

Rates of malignant mesothelioma caused by secondary exposure, which happens when asbestos fibers are brought into the home from another environment, are on the rise. This may be in part because it was only relatively recent that secondhand mesothelioma was identified by physicians as a serious problem. Malignant mesothelioma caused by second hand exposure most frequently occurs when someone in the household is working in an industry where asbestos is typically encountered, but it can also be caused by asbestos that has polluted an environment, such as the case in Libby, Montana where asbestos from mines and manufacturing have poisoned the town and outlying areas.

Malignant Mesothelioma

Secondary Exposure in the Home

girl hugging fatherOnce asbestos fibers are on a surface, such as the fabric of a worker’s clothes, they are easily disturbed and can become airborne by as simple an act as a young child’s hug or a spouse doing the laundry. These airborne fibers are easily inhaled or ingested and once they are inside the body the stage is set for asbestos related cancers, though the symptoms of mesothelioma do not typically appear until decades after exposure.

Immediate family members are most at risk. For reasons that are poorly understood, women are more likely to contract malignant mesothelioma from secondhand exposure. Women are also more likely to develop peritoneal mesothelioma, a rarer type of mesothelioma occurring in the lining around the abdomen that is more difficult to treat than the more common form of the disease, known as pleural mesothelioma.

Secondary Exposure in the Environment

Secondary exposure to asbestos fibers can cause malignant mesothelioma even if no one in the household is working in a contaminated workplace. Asbestos can be found in all parts of the world, including the U.S, occurring both naturally and through pollution due to prior asbestos mining, construction, or manufacturing. When these fibers are in the soil, they are inert and relatively harmless; they only become a serious problem once they become airborne through activities such as:

  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Heavy activity like rail and shipyards or even dirt biking
  • Careless manufacturers using these materials
  • Demolition, Repair, Renovation

In one recent report it was revealed that in North Dakota erionite was used to build over 300 miles of roads. Erionite is an asbestos-related mineral which can cause asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma. When it is trapped in asphalt, erionite is not particularly dangerous, but as the roads deteriorate and repair becomes necessary, this will become an enormous hazard. Moreover, North Dakota has many gravel roads made with this material already releasing erionite contaminated dust into the air.

Malignant Mesothelioma through Secondary Exposure is a Concern

Secondary exposure to asbestos and related minerals is dangerous because the airborne fibers are so small they are invisible to the naked eye, and the exposure is not known or even suspected until a family member shows symptoms of illness. Even worse, the evidence suggests that malignant mesothelioma that develops from secondhand exposure may have a longer period between exposure and when symptoms begin than malignant mesothelioma contracted through primary exposure in the workplace.

Malignant mesothelioma caused by secondary exposure to asbestos can be identified by ruling out the possibility of primary exposure. Asbestos and related minerals are the primary cause of malignant mesothelioma, so when malignant mesothelioma occurs the main question is where and how the victim was exposed. The mesothelioma attorneys of Clapper, Patti, Schweizer & Mason have dedicated their practice to defending the rights of  victims wrongly subjected to and injured by primary and secondary exposure to asbestos. Let us help you bring the companies responsible for the devastation that asbestos-related diseases cause to justice. Contact us today for a no cost, no obligation consultation.