If you’ve lived with someone who was exposed to asbestos, you may also be at risk for an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma. Though some wonder if the disease is hereditary, the truth is it is usually secondary exposure that can put family members at risk.
The families of workers exposed to asbestos may have an increased risk of experiencing adverse health effects through what is known as secondary exposure. Secondary exposure, or para-occupational exposure, occurs when people are subjected to asbestos dust or fibers but do not directly work with asbestos or asbestos-containing products. Meaning, their family member accidentally “brings work home with them” and unknowingly exposes their family to asbestos.
Although this secondary exposure is a lower concentration of asbestos than the occupationally exposed individual, it can still be very harmful and have long-term consequences. A clinical study from 1989 showed that secondary exposure could be as detrimental as primary exposure in an industrial setting, shedding a light on the dangers it holds.
How Secondary Asbestos Exposure Occurs
In 1897, one of the first doctors discovered the connection between asbestos exposure and lung cancer. He also recognized that there was a connection between occupationally exposed individuals and their family members falling ill with similar things. By the 1940s, many cases of secondary asbestos exposure were documented in the UK. By the 1960s, the United States started recognizing the health risks of secondary exposure to asbestos.
Over the years, there have been a few different names for secondary asbestos exposure. These have been used by medical professionals and lawyers alike to describe it, such as:
and Secondhand exposure
Although this secondary exposure is not as common as it was 50+ years ago, it typically resulted from the following:
Contact with contaminated tools
Contact with contaminated shoes or clothing items
Contact with contaminated hair or skin
Contact with contaminated furniture
Contact with contaminated vehicles
Now, companies are held to higher standards than they were decades ago, meaning that most (if not all) employees exposed to asbestos wear hazmat suits, are provided with a place to change out of their clothes before they go home, are provided with shower facilities to ensure the asbestos is not clinging to their skin or hair, and these companies typically use a special laundry service that ensures the clothing is decontaminated.
Unfortunately, for occupationally exposed individuals and their families, these standards were not in place for decades. This means that a significant number of individuals working in Chicago public schools, oil refineries, power generation plants, the Johns Manville Plant, steel mills, factories, foundries, water treatment plants, shipyards, and auto mechanic garages may be at risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases (and may have put their families at risk as well).
Keeping an Eye on Your Health
Research has shown that women are the most affected by secondary asbestos exposure. For example, a study from 2017 found that 64% of women with mesothelioma had secondary asbestos exposure. Another study, conducted in Italy that analyzed over 1,000 individuals, found that 35 cases of pleural mesothelioma were caused by living with workers exposed to asbestos, and 33 of those 35 were wives, daughters, and mothers of the asbestos workers. Two of the 35 were male. Moral of the “story” is that no one should rule themselves out if they have symptoms of asbestos exposure, because there is a likelihood that you had secondary exposure.
Common health issues that have been known to result from secondary asbestos exposure include:
- Lung cancer
- Bronchial cancer
- Throat cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Chronic bronchitis
- and more
Say you find out that you’re sick as a result of secondary asbestos exposure- what do you do next? Obviously, start taking care of yourself and listen to your doctors, but then you should look into getting help from lawyers. Why? Because you were exposed to asbestos due to the negligence of others and they must be held accountable. Your doctor’s bills and more could be covered in a lawsuit if you have great lawyers in your corner.
Secondary Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits
Secondary asbestos exposure lawsuits are a bit more complicated than primary exposure cases. Identifying and proving that exposure to asbestos is the cause of your illness can be tricky, which is why it’s important to have lawyers with a long history of successful asbestos litigation on your case. Our lawyers at Cooney & Conway know how this works, and we’re the best of the best when it comes to asbestos litigation. We can help you gather the evidence you need to make a strong case against the companies that neglected to protect you and your family.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and would like to learn more about your legal rights, an asbestos attorney may be able to provide answers to your important questions. Take the first step to getting the compensation you deserve by submitting your free case evaluation