Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a chronic lung disease that results in lung tissue scarring, and other diseases. Most people suffering from mesothelioma acquired it on the job before regulations on the use of asbestos were put in place.

However, asbestos exposure does not always end at the workplace. Whenever an employee is at risk, so are usually their loved ones. This is attributed to the phenomenon known as secondary exposure to asbestos.

So how does secondary exposure to asbestos happen?

Secondary exposure occurs when asbestos fibers stick to a worker’s clothing, skin or hair while they’re on the job and they carry those fibers home where their loved ones can be exposed to it. Here are some of the potential points of secondary exposure to asbestos:

  • An individual with asbestos-contaminated clothing or hair can leave traces of the substance in the car while driving. Anyone who gets into the car is at risk of secondary exposure.
  • An individual with asbestos on their clothing or skin can introduce the substance in the home where it can spread in the air as they walk around.
  • Washing asbestos-contaminated laundry can contaminate the laundry room and other people’s laundry.
  • Personal contact with an individual who has asbestos in their clothing or skin can affect spouses and children.

How can you mitigate the risk of secondary exposure?

Individuals who work in asbestos-contaminated environments should be provided with appropriate resources for proper decontamination. These can include:

  • Storage for their work equipment and clothing instead of carrying them home
  • Shower facilities to wash off any minerals that may have clung onto their hair and skin while working
  • Dedicated storage for worker’s street clothes to avoid contamination

What if you suspect you have been contaminated?

Mesothelioma symptoms can begin to manifest 10 to 15 years (or longer) after exposure. Even then, they may still appear quite mild. The long latency period makes it quite difficult to properly diagnose mesothelioma, more so since its early symptoms usually mimic those of common illnesses.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos unknowingly, you may develop a form of lung cancer known as mesothelioma. If this happens, you may be eligible for a mesothelioma claim to help you take care of the medical expenses associated with this condition.