What is Secondary Asbestos Exposure?

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Traditionally, mesothelioma has affected far more men than women.  However, the picture is changing and there is an increasing number of cases of women developing mesothelioma and this can be due to secondary asbestos exposure. Specialist solicitor Andrew Stinchcombe from our Bristol office explains.

Women can be exposed to asbestos in a wide range of occupations where the contact with asbestos may not be immediately obvious. This can include teachers and school secretaries where asbestos is present in older school buildings, retail workers, bank workers, office workers, factory workers, nurses, cleaners and clerical staff.

What is secondary asbestos exposure?

Many women also experience secondary asbestos exposure. It is a term given to people who have been exposed to asbestos dust or fibres despite not having worked with asbestos directly.

Examples include:

  • Doing laundry – The work overalls and clothing of people who have handled asbestos products pose a significant risk of secondary exposure. Women who washed their partner or loved one’s asbestos-covered clothes when they come home from work would often give them a shake to remove excess dust before washing them, causing asbestos fibres to become airborne and inhaled or ingested by anyone nearby.
  • Giving hugs – If a worker arrived home with asbestos fibres attached to their clothes, hair or skin, close contact with a family member increases the chances of a wife or child getting secondary exposure.
  • Sitting on sofas and armchairs – When a worker returns home and does not get changed immediately out of their asbestos-contaminated clothes, there is a risk that microscopic asbestos fibres become embedded in sofas, armchairs, cushions, beds and other soft furnishings.
  • Exposure in the community – Secondary exposure may also take place if people live near factories or shipyards where asbestos was used.

Is secondary asbestos exposure dangerous?

Secondary asbestos exposure can also cause life-threatening cancer, mesothelioma, in the same way as primary asbestos exposure (when someone has had direct contact with asbestos). Even a relatively small exposure to asbestos dust can potentially result in this disease developing many decades later.

Making a secondary asbestos exposure claim

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be able to take legal action and make a compensation claim.

Secondary asbestos exposure claims can sometimes be challenging as they can be difficult to prove and often a lot of time has elapsed, so it is essential to seek advice from a specialist asbestos disease solicitor. Claims for secondary exposure due to washing clothes can usually only be brought if the exposure occurred from 1965 onwards.

An expert in asbestos compensation claims can help investigate how the exposure took place and can obtain evidence, such as employment records; to prove former employers were in breach of their duties.

Novum Law’s specialist team of asbestos disease solicitors are experts in mesothelioma claims and are proud members of the Mesothelioma UK legal panel offering legal advice and support to mesothelioma patients and their families.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and would like to learn more about making a claim for compensation, call us on Freephone 0800 884 0777, email info@novumlaw.com or fill out our online enquiry form for a free, no-obligation chat.

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