The Hidden Risk of Indirect Asbestos Exposure

04/04/2011 // Chicago, IL, USA // Mesothelioma Lawyers – Cooney & Conway // Cooney & Conway

While the dangers of asbestos exposure are well known, there is often confusion and misinformation about exactly who runs the risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease.

Clearly, those who work around the material or are exposed to it in a building, factory or even school are at peril for contracting conditions like lung cancer and mesothelioma, an aggressive and invariably fatal form of cancer. But one need not work or even be situated around a source of asbestos to be imperiled. Asbestos fibers unwittingly brought home on clothing, shoes, equipment or personal items are all too effective in triggering disease—and catastrophe—across families.

Mesothelioma lawyers and experts call it indirect asbestos exposure, or secondhand asbestos exposure. Some simply call it take-home asbestos. Whatever the name, the consequences can be grave. Asbestos, in effect, comes home with someone, and anyone in the household can then breathe in the fibers. Once lodged in the lungs, asbestos can trigger mesothelioma and other deadly diseases many years—even decades—later.

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is particularly grim: Few patients survive more than a couple of years post-diagnosis. While mesothelioma lawyers have obtained significant settlements and verdicts in asbestos lawsuits—often in the millions of dollars—a cure for the disease still remains elusive.

That makes it all the more important to be on guard for indirect asbestos exposure—and to know where those fibers may be lurking.

Besides the clothing and shoes of anyone who has worked with the material or been around it in some other way, asbestos fibers can be on skin, hair, even accessories like backpacks and lunch boxes. Handling any of these items or even hugging a family member who inadvertently brought asbestos home can have tragic consequences. This is one reason why mesothelioma lawyers and doctors increasingly find themselves aiding the spouses of asbestos workers, in addition to asbestos workers themselves.

The good news is there are steps one can take to minimize the danger of indirect asbestos exposure:

• If you think you may have been exposed to asbestos, be sure to change out of your clothes before you go home, keeping the potentially contaminated items in a sealed bag until they can be laundered.

• Shower as soon as possible, and certainly before you touch anyone. This removes asbestos fibers that may have landed on your hair or skin.

• Keep anything you carried with you separated, perhaps in a special storage area in your garage or basement, isolated from family members and household items.

Ideally, of course, the best protection is to avoid asbestos completely. But because the material can lurk in so many places—even today, when its dangers are widely known—that may not always be possible, especially for workers involved in the demolition or renovation of sites that may contain asbestos. A little knowledge and a few precautions now can help save grief and perhaps even lives later on.

*This mesothelioma backgrounder was brought to you by the mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway. For more than half a century, we’ve brought relief—and financial recovery—to those injured by the negligence or harmful actions of others. In the process, we’ve litigated some of the country’s most significant asbestos lawsuits, helping victims of mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases get answers—and justice.

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