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Women at risk for mesothelioma from second-hand exposure

A report from Ireland discussing mesothelioma cancer in woman, points out the global reach of this disease. The most disturbing finding of the study from the National Cancer Registry, was that wives of men who worked in asbestos-using industries are at risk for developing mesothelioma.

They found 90 percent of female mesothelioma victims were married. While men vastly outnumber women with mesothelioma diagnoses, with five times as many male victims, most of the women who developed this deadly cancer picked it up from their husbands. These men worked in shipyards or building construction, as pipefitters, electricians and other trades, and handled asbestos-laden materials day after day.

And at the end of the day, they came home wearing clothing covered with the dust containing the deadly asbestos fibers. After handling these clothes for decades, they too, developed asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma and asbestosis.

These women may not suspect they were even exposed, let alone could fall victim to an insidious disease like mesothelioma. Because it can take 20 to 40 years for the disease to be diagnosed, women today may be carrying the deadly fibers within their lungs from dust they inhaled decades earlier.

Ireland, as part of the European Union, did not ban use of asbestos until 2004, with limited restriction phased in from 1994, but that still means thousands of workers were exposed. And it means that Ireland, like the United States, still has tons of asbestos material in use, wrapping steam pipes and air vents, as electrical insulation, and in floor and ceiling tile in tens of thousands of buildings.

If you suspect your husband may have been exposed to asbestos during his working years, you could be at risk. You should discuss this with your doctor if you have any of the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases.

Source: Irish Independent, "Wives victim to cancer from asbestos on husband's clothes ," Eilish O'Regan, January 14, 2013

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