Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive cancer that is nearly always caused by asbestos exposure. Being exposed to asbestos can cause pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma 30, 40, or 50 years after exposure. In most cases, the people diagnosed with mesothelioma are men in their 60s and 70s who worked in heavy industry or manufacturing for many years. (NIH.gov).
But in some cases, it is possible to experience secondhand exposure to asbestos. For example, your mom could get mesothelioma from washing her husband’s work clothes that were contaminated with asbestos particles. Washing contaminated clothes over many years may lead to mesothelioma, a cancer with a poor prognosis; some estimates are only 10% of mesothelioma patients live five years.
In the past, it might have been challenging to file a mesothelioma lawsuit for being exposed to asbestos by washing a family member’s clothing, but times have changed. If your mom got mesothelioma from washing her husband’s clothes, she and your family may be entitled to compensation in a secondary exposure mesothelioma lawsuit. Keep reading to learn more about your next steps.
How Does Asbestos Exposure Cause Mesothelioma?
According to the American Cancer Society, asbestos exposure is the primary cause of all types of mesothelioma. Approximately eight out of 10 people with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos at work or at home. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they travel to the ends of tiny air passages and get to the pleura, where they can get stuck for years. The body will try to expel them, but it is usually unsuccessful. Inflammation and scarring can happen that lead to pleural mesothelioma.
Over the years, this can damage the DNA of the cells and cause mutations and uncontrolled cell growth. (Cancer.org). If the asbestos fibers are swallowed, the fibers can get into the lining of the abdomen, where they can cause peritoneal mesothelioma.
The risk of getting mesothelioma is related to how much asbestos you were exposed to and for how long. People who are exposed from a young age, for years and at high levels have a higher chance of getting cancer. (Cancer.org).
Whether you were exposed to asbestos at work or at home on clothes from an asbestos worker, you have a higher risk of getting mesothelioma. Secondary asbestos exposure is becoming more well-known as women are getting mesothelioma who never worked in an asbestos-related field.
What Is Secondary Asbestos Exposure?
Men working in heavy industry are not the only ones who can get mesothelioma. Any family member who lived with a worker employed in one of the following occupations could have been exposed to asbestos in the home:
- Asbestos miners
- Shipbuilders and dock workers
- Textile workers
- Train carriage builders
- Boiler room workers
Women who lived with men who worked with asbestos were often exposed in the home. Secondary exposure to asbestos can happen when you come in close contact with toxic asbestos fibers brought into the house from work. The most common way that this occurs is through the handling and laundering of clothes of people who directly contacted asbestos at work. (NIH.gov).
The aforementioned NIH study reveals that over the past several decades in many countries, ‘several hundred mesothelioma cases’ were reported among family members of asbestos workers. The study notes an early case series report where 10 of 52 female cases of mesothelioma had husbands or fathers in asbestos-related work.
Who Is Affected by Secondary Asbestos Exposure?
There are several common scenarios where family members could be exposed to asbestos in the home from an asbestos worker:
- Mothers and wives often handled laundry daily that was covered in asbestos dust. If you can see asbestos dust in the air, there are billions of invisible fibers as well that can be inhaled or ingested.
- Men who worked with products containing asbestos gave love and affection to their wives, children, or siblings when they came home.
- Workers brought asbestos fibers into the home on their shoes, clothes, or hair.
- Families who resided near mines or factories contaminated with asbestos.
Women were especially at risk of asbestos exposure in the home. Approximately 8% of the people diagnosed with mesothelioma each year are women, who were most likely victims of secondary asbestos exposure.
Studies Show the Risks of Secondary Asbestos Exposure
A 1997 study by Durham and Duke University Medical Centers on women with mesothelioma found that more than 50% of them were exposed to asbestos from household contact with asbestos workers. (NIH.gov). Occupational exposure to asbestos was found in only 19% of the women studied.
Further, pleural mesothelioma is diagnosed in 80% of mesothelioma cases, but studies indicate that women are more likely to be diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma.
A 1989 study also shows that secondary asbestos contamination, such as a mom washing her husband’s contaminated clothes, can lead to asbestos exposure levels that are similar to an industrial setting. (NIH.gov).
Secondary Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits
New Jersey was one of the first states to give compensation to victims of secondary asbestos exposure. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that spouses of asbestos workers could hold employers liable for diseases caused by secondhand asbestos exposure.
In 2016, the same court found that anyone who lived with an asbestos worker, including visitors, domestic partners, and children, could hold the company liable for their cancer. (Businessinsurance.com)
This legal development has pathed the way for more secondary asbestos exposure lawsuits in recent years.
Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer anyone exposed to asbestos can get, even a family member exposed to the carcinogen on the worker’s clothes. If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma after washing your husband’s work clothes, you could be entitled to receive compensation in a mesothelioma settlement lawsuit. Mesothelioma compensation may include settlements, jury verdicts, trust funds, or a VA claim. Depending on the details of the case, you could be entitled to a financial award of $1 million to $1.4 million, according to recent settlement reports. Talk to a licensed mesothelioma attorney for more information.