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What to know about take-home asbestos exposure

It is commonly known that asbestos is a dangerous substance that has been the cause of diseases and cancers such as mesothelioma. Due to its fire-retardant properties, the mineral was considered very useful to many industries, such as fireproofing or insulating for construction.

Even after regulations were put in place to severely restrict and in some instances, discontinue its use in the 1970s, people continued to get sick. It can take years for the long-term effects of asbestos exposure to be realized.

If you have a family member who worked in an environment where asbestos was present before regulations were in effect, you may have also been exposed. How did it happen?

There have been thousands of cases of people contracting mesothelioma or other illnesses caused by direct exposure to asbestos. Secondary, or take-home exposure can be just as dangerous and lethal as primary exposure. Immediate family members, most commonly the wives of workers, were potentially exposed and there have been many cases of illnesses developing as a result. How could you or your family member have been indirectly exposed?

  • If you washed contaminated clothes
  • If someone wore contaminated clothes and shoes while walking through the home or sitting on furniture
  • If you came into physical contact with someone wearing contaminated clothes

Those affected at home are often unaware of their exposure. Wives washed their husband’s clothing and children came in contact through hugs or other physical contact. Strict regulations are now in place for those who work around asbestos, but those exposed before precautions were practiced may still get sick.

What has been done about it?

There are cases involving secondary exposure, but not all of them have been in favor of the victim as each state handles these situations differently. States, such as Arizona, deny claims of secondary exposure all together. A small number of cases have been successful as well. However, these cases are often difficult as the victim must provide sufficient evidence that his or her illness was in fact caused by secondary exposure and that the company was negligent in protecting others from unnecessary and avoidable exposure.

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