You’ve likely heard a lot about second-hand smoke. After all, it’s due to the threat of second-hand smoke that many communities and public buildings have gone smoke-free in recent years. However, there’s another second-hand connection that’s just as deadly—second-hand asbestos.
Like second-hand smoke, second-hand asbestos can bring someone else’s carcinogens to you. And, as one man’s story shows us, it can lead to such harmful cancers as asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Paying for his father’s exposure
A California man recently won a civil suit for the mesothelioma he developed due to second-hand asbestos. He did this by proving his cancer owed to his father’s work for a privately owned utility company in the 1970s and 1980s. This is notable because the California man didn’t show a history of direct exposure to asbestos. Instead, he showed:
- That his father had been exposed during his work
- That his father had been able to carry the asbestos fibers home on his clothing
Because those fibers made their way home, they could contaminate the family’s laundry. It’s not clear how many of the asbestos fibers would have gotten into the son’s clothing or if the son was exposed by hugging his father while his father wore his work clothes. What is known is that there’s no safe amount of asbestos exposure. When the son’s skin encountered the fibers his father brought home, it absorbed them. Then those fibers lingered in his body for decades before triggering tumor growth.
Mesothelioma is most associated with those industrial jobs that exposed people to the construction and insulation materials that contained asbestos. These include such jobs as:
- Shipyard workers
- Construction workers
- Pipe fitters
- Navy veterans
However, those workers often carried asbestos fibers home with them. This could lead to deadly second-hand exposure. One study found that more than 60% of women diagnosed with mesothelioma could blame it on second-hand exposure.
Victims can get help
There’s a second theme to the California man’s case—the theme of recovery. The case was in the news because the appellate court struck down a large punitive verdict. But that ruling didn’t completely strip away the man’s recovery. He still won $6.3 million in damages for:
As much as anything, the appellate court’s ruling proves that courts recognize the dangers of second-hand asbestos exposure. It also shows that mesothelioma victims don’t always need to prove a company acted with malice. They have multiple options to consider for both their physical and financial recovery.