Secondary Asbestos Exposure & Mesothelioma


Secondary asbestos exposure occurs when an asbestos worker unknowingly brings home asbestos fibers, endangering the occupants of the home. Secondary asbestos exposure causes the same diseases as primary exposure, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. While asbestos is often considered to be work-related, asbestos workers are also at risk. The toxin can be brought home to workers' hair, skin, and clothing to expose relatives and lead to mesothelioma diagnoses. Primary asbestos exposure occurs in people who work with asbestos. This type of exposure was common in men in the 20th century, as they were more frequently employed in asbestos-related occupations.
Secondary Asbestos Exposure
Secondary asbestos exposure is more common in women and children. Before strict regulations were introduced in the 1970s, it was common for asbestos workers to unknowingly put asbestos in their work clothes, shoes, and tools. Secondary asbestos exposure is as dangerous as primary exposure. Any asbestos exposure can have serious health effects. Repeated, long-term secondary exposure causes the same diseases and cancers as the primary exposure including mesothelioma.

Secondary Asbestos Exposure Is Also Calle

  • Exposure in the household
  • Domestic exposure
  • Take-home exposure
  • Indirect exposure
  • Employment-related exposure
  •  Second-hand exposure
It is sometimes confused with environmental influences and contamination of the population. Environmental stress occurs when people come into contact with naturally occurring asbestos deposits. Contamination from the Community occurs when an asbestos mine, processing plant or manufacturing facility contaminate a community with asbestos.

The secondary asbestos exposure is less common today than it was decades ago. Employers must now give workers the opportunity to exchange contaminated clothing before going home. They also need to provide shower facilities so that workers can wash off asbestos from skin and hair before going home. Employers also need to use special laundry services to properly clean contaminated workwear for reuse. Workers usually do not have access to these specialized laundry services and should not attempt to wash their contaminated clothing.

What Is a Secondary Asbestos Exposure?

Secondary asbestos exposure is non-occupational exposure to asbestos fibers. Secondary exposure may also be referred to as second-hand exposure, non-occupational exposure, home-based or occupational exposure. This exposure can occur if you live with an asbestos worker who brings home asbestos dust or fiber after direct contact with asbestos products.

In some cases, exposure to the environment or exposure to natural asbestos or asbestos dust in the air may also cause the fiber to be brought home and result in secondary exposure. These forms of exposure typically occur at lower concentrations than the primary exposure experienced by occupationally exposed persons. In addition, secondary exposure may start at an earlier age if someone in the household is asbestos workers.

Who Is At Risk For Secondary Asbestos Exposure?

Every type of asbestos exposure is much less common today than it was 20 years ago. Women and children, however, were at increased risk when asbestos was high in the mid-20th century. At that time men formed the majority of the industrial working class. The occupations in these industrial environments often required workers to handle asbestos-containing products. Workers who return home can wear fibers on their hair, skin, and clothing and indirectly expose their families and others living with them.

Secondary exposure is the cause of a significant proportion of mesothelioma cases in women and children. If children are indirectly exposed to asbestos at an early age, they may develop asbestos-related illness in adulthood.
Secondary Asbestos Exposure
Mesothelioma in the children is not common and is generally not associated with asbestos exposure. There is a latency period of 20 to 50 years between the time of exposure and the development of the asbestos disease.

Most Risk Populations

Persons living with asbestos workers and experiencing secondary asbestos exposure suffer as much as twice as many as the population. Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to asbestos and increased exposure levels increase the risk of mesothelioma.
The most common examples of secondary asbestos exposure included Libby, Montana, where W.R. Grace and Company employed hundreds of workers in an asbestos mine. Researchers studying mine-induced asbestos exposure found that coexistence with a W. R.

Grace collaborator was one of the four strongest indicators of asbestos-related disease. According to their results, there were cases of both pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma in persons who lived with the miners. Only two out of more than 200 female participants in the study were previously employed by W. R. Grace.

Living with an asbestos worker was the cause of the survival hazard of mesothelioma survivor Heather Von St. James. As a child, Heather often wore her father's work coat when doing her housework, which was unknown to her and her family and covered in asbestos dust. Heather was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at age 36 and received 15 months to live. After completing the aggressive treatment, Heather is now free of cancer and advocates mesothelioma patients and the asbestos ban.

Research has shown that women not only live with asbestos workers but are also most affected by secondary asbestos exposure. In a 2017 study, researchers found that 64% of the examined female mesothelioma patients had a secondary exposure. By comparison, only 12% of male participants were second-hand affected. According to the researchers, the researchers believe that the main cause of malignant mesothelioma in women is secondary asbestos exposure.

Common Sources Of Second-Hand Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos particles are friable or easily disintegrate and can go up in the air. This fragile texture, combined with its abrasive texture, allows the attachment of fibers to fabrics, hair and other materials. Second-hand exposure begins when a worker does not properly decontaminate before returning to their families, though most do not even realize they were themselves exposed to asbestos. Anything the asbestos worker comes into direct contact with while still carrying asbestos fibers becomes a potential source of secondary asbestos exposure.

One of the most common causes of secondary exposure occurs when washing or handling contaminated clothing. Workers and their families should not try to wash asbestos-soiled clothing themselves to reduce the risk of particles spreading. A recent study found that women who were exposed to asbestos-contaminated clothing by washing had asbestos lung concentrations similar to those of men working in construction, a high-exposure industry. Anything that has come into contact with asbestos should either be disposed of in special facilities or washed.

How Does Secondary Asbestos Exposure Affect Mesothelioma Diagnosis?

Secondary asbestos exposure can affect mesothelioma patients in several ways. The diagnostic procedure for second-line asbestos patients is often more complex than for direct exposure patients because prior contact with the toxin is much more difficult to detect. In addition, the researchers believe that gender bias plays a role in the diagnosis of mesothelioma patients with secondary asbestos exposure.

The development of mesothelioma is also different in patients who have been second-hand exposed. These patients are usually diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma that occurs in the lining of the lungs. In pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease and has a more favorable prognosis than pericardial mesothelioma, but a less favorable prognosis than peritoneal mesothelioma. The average life expectancy for pleural mesothelioma patients is about one year.

In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos exposure in the household can also lead to pleural plaques and asbestosis. In one study, 32 cases of mesothelioma due to household asbestos exposure were found. The patients with mesothelioma, pleural plaques also occurred in 10 patients and in four patients asbestosis was also diagnosed. Of the 32 cases, 27 were pleural mesothelioma and five were diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, confirming the assumption that secondary exposure most often leads to the development of mesothelioma in the lungs.

Since secondary exposure often occurs at a younger age, patients may have latency effects. According to some studies, the exposure that begins at birth, such as the exposure of children living with an asbestos worker, does not affect the latency of mesothelioma. However, there are reports of longer latencies in patients who were exposed at the beginning of their lives.

Treatment Options For Mesothelioma Patients With Secondary Asbestos Exposure

Mesothelioma patients experiencing secondary asbestos exposure have the same treatment options as primary exposures. Mesothelioma is generally treated with a multimodal approach, including a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Similar to patients exposed to occupational or environmental exposures, second-hand mesothelioma patients, who can be treated early, perform better than patients with late diagnoses. When administered in the earlier disease stages, patients have more viable curative treatment options.

In some cases, second-hand patients may show a better response to treatment. Many patients diagnosed with mesothelioma as second-hand asbestos exposures are women and studies have shown that women have more favorable results after mesothelioma treatment. One study found that women survived longer than men, regardless of the type of treatment. Of the mesothelioma cases studied, the 5-year survival rate in male patients was only 4.5%, while 13.4% of the female patients had a 5-year survival rate.

If the treatments are unsuccessful or if the cancer is not detected early enough, patients may receive palliative treatment to treat the symptoms and improve quality of life.

How Is Secondary Asbestos Exposure?

Asbestos fibers have a rough texture. The fibers can break into microscopic pieces. The rough texture and small size allow the fibers to adhere easily to clothing, hair, and skin.
There are three common sources of secondary asbestos exposure in the household.


The clothes of workers working with asbestos products posed a considerable risk of second-hand exposure. Due to the jagged structure of the fibers, the microscopic particles can easily adhere to the clothing. Anyone who handles or washes this workwear probably experienced indirect exposure.

Can You Wash Asbestos From Clothes?

You can not easily wash asbestos out of clothing. If you try, you can expose yourself to asbestos. Regular washing machines are not suitable for cleaning asbestos-contaminated clothing. If you try to wash contaminated clothing, asbestos fibers will be in the air. It will also contaminate other garments that are placed in the washing machine.

Clothing exposed to asbestos should be disposed of properly. Contaminated clothing should be placed in a watertight bag or container. The bag or the container must be labeled as asbestos waste. Then it has to be taken to a landfill, which is set up for the disposal of asbestos waste. Contact your local government agency for information on local landfills receiving asbestos waste.


If a worker did not remove asbestos-stained clothing before returning home, fibers could be embedded in the couch, chairs, carpet, bed, and other pieces of furniture.


If a worker came home with fibers on his hair, skin, or clothes and later embraced his or her spouse, family members were likely to be indirectly exposed to the carcinogen. Some cases of mesothelioma have evolved from children sitting on the lap of their father or grandfather after coming home from work.

While family members had no direct contact with asbestos-containing products, the amount of dust brought home was enough to cause mesothelioma or related disease later in life.

What Are The Risks Of Secondary Exposure?

The risks of secondary exposure are the same as for primary exposure. The Secondary asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. It can also cause less serious asbestos-related diseases such as pleural plaques.

Under certain circumstances, secondary exposures have converged to the occupational level. This is more likely when a worker is employed in a highly exposed industry. Examples are asbestos miners, insulators, shipyard workers and construction workers. Extensive research has shown that secondary asbestos exposure has serious health effects.

Second-Hand Asbestos Exposure Research And Studies

  • Between 1941 and 1954, researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City studied the health of 679 family members of 1,664 workers employed at the Union Asbestos & Rubber Company factory in Paterson, New Jersey. Researchers discovered five cases of mesothelioma among family members of factory workers. Asbestos dust sources were also found in the homes of former Paterson factory workers 20 years after the factory closed.
  • A 1978 study found a 10-fold increased risk of mesothelioma in women with secondary asbestos exposure compared to the general population. The majority of women in the study who developed mesothelioma lived with an asbestos insulator and washed their clothes.
  • A 1997 study of mesothelioma in women found that more than half were second-hand exposed. Only 19 percent were directly affected by their profession.
  • An Italian study from 2017, published in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, examined 1,063 cases of mesothelioma and found that 35 of them were caused by second-hand asbestos exposure. Exposure to asbestos among workers who unknowingly brought asbestos home was mostly at shipyards.

Secondary Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits

Only a handful of states have made compensation payments to victims of secondary asbestos exposure in the past. In some of these states include New Jersey, California, and Washington. The determination of secondary asbestos exposure liability is not as straightforward as direct exposure. Individuals who have been exposed at work can often easily identify which products have led to their exposure.
Secondary Asbestos Exposure
The exposed pedestrians may not know which products contributed to their exposure. This is especially true if the person who brought the asbestos home has died. Each state has its own laws regarding the determination of asbestos liability. For example, New Jersey and North Dakota have recently rejected asbestos exposure asbestos claims altogether. Other states, such as California, have granted compensation to victims of secondary exposure.

Like the applicants, who are directly exposed to asbestos, applicants who have been indirectly injured by asbestos may be entitled to compensation. To assert a valid legal claim, they must be able to ascertain their vulnerability to a defendant who is liable for the absence of any warning or protection against the dangers. Typically, this is an asbestos lawyer examining the work history of a family member exposed at work.

Preventive Workplace Regulations

The use of asbestos in the United States is now strictly regulated by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In some industries that are known to have an increased risk of occupational asbestos exposure, there are specific guidelines for employers to protect both workers and their families. The construction industry, general industry, and shipyards receive industry-specific guidelines to reduce the high risk of asbestos disease.

In general, employers are required to provide workers with personal protective equipment that, if used as intended, could eliminate the risk of employees placing asbestos particles on their clothing. Lockers should be available to staff to prevent clothing from being contaminated with personal protective equipment. Showers should also be available at the construction site so that staff can use them after completing their shift. This approach reduces the risk of asbestos fibers being applied to the hair and skin of an employee.

Despite various guidelines, there is still regular secondary and direct asbestos exposure. Persons living with an asbestos worker or previously living with an asbestos worker should be alert to their health and their risk for asbestos-related illnesses.



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Mesothelioma Master: Secondary Asbestos Exposure & Mesothelioma
Secondary Asbestos Exposure & Mesothelioma
The risks of secondary exposure are the same as primary exposure. Secondary asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
Mesothelioma Master
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