Most mesothelioma cases affect the male population because most cases stem from an environmental exposure in the workplace. Traditionally, in past decades, men were far more likely to take jobs in the shipyards and factories where exposure was a daily event.
Despite these odds, approximately 8 percent of asbestos-related cancers are diagnosed annually in women. A large portion of those cases directly result from secondary exposures.
Cancer can develop from riding in the same vehicle as the worker who was exposed to asbestos, or washing the work clothes worn on the job. In both cases, the person inhales deadly asbestos fibers into his or her lungs.
Sometimes, these cases are referred to as “domestic exposures.” The primary victim is usually a father, son, husband or brother that carries the deadly disease unknowingly back home with him after a day of primary exposure. On joint study by Duke University Medical Centers and Durham University found that over half of the diagnoses could be traced to household contact with asbestos workers.
Imagine this scenario:
A man returns home from a shift and is greeted by hugs from family members. Clinging asbestos fibers then can transfer to the clothing and hair of the sons, daughters and wives. Additionally, women typically handled the laundry chores. Picture a wife, shaking out dusty work clothes before dropping them into the washing machine. Suddenly all those dusty asbestos fibers are airborne in the home, often in tight spaces like laundry rooms that lack ventilation.
Day after day, this scenario would be repeated. After many years, symptoms of pulmonary distress begin to emerge in the family members.
These bystander exposures have the potential to be just as deadly as the primary exposures do. Even living in close proximity to a factory where asbestos was used in manufacturing can cause airborne exposures and deaths decades later.
The courts began to recognize the secondary claims had merit and started allowing compensation to be granted for domestic exposures. If you feel that your diagnosis was due to a secondary exposure, you may have a legal right to seek compensation.
Source: mesothelioma.com, “Secondary Exposure,” accessed Oct. 09, 2015