In the past three decades, the public has become increasingly aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke. Many workplaces now have designated smoking areas, while some households banish smokers altogether. They know second-hand produces harmful effects to those who breathe it.
The same type of awareness about the dangers of secondary exposure to asbestos is not as well-known. We know that workers who frequently deal with flame-retardant asbestos are susceptible to mesothelioma and other illnesses. However, sometimes, their families are the overlooked victims. They breathe in the asbestos fibers unknowingly brought into their homes by their loved ones who may serve as construction workers, firefighters, industrial workers and machinists. The fibers that have settled on their skin, clothing, shoes and tools can lead to serious illness to family members.
Fibers Unknowingly Brought into Family Homes
Secondary exposure to asbestos is as dangerous as primary exposure. Industries such as construction and manufacturing commonly use asbestos. When disturbed in any way, asbestos fibers become airborne. The fibers can be inhaled and potentially lead to many cancer-related illnesses.
Here are some of the in-home sources that can expose family members to secondary asbestos:
- Furniture and other household items: When a worker is not informed or warned to change his or her asbestos-contaminated clothing at work, the fibers from the contaminated work cloths brought home will spread to couches, chairs, curtains, carpeting and beds, and even the family car.
- Laundry: Clothing containing asbestos must receive proper disposal, and cannot be washed with other clothing. Remember, the family member responsible for laundry duties also handles the dirty clothing, which will contain asbestos fibers if those work clothes were exposed to asbestos.
- Physical contact such as hugs, handshakes and playtime: The skin and hair of workers may contain asbestos fibers and dust.
Awareness is crucial about the dangers of asbestos, and that includes secondary exposure to it. When inhaled and lodged in the lungs, asbestos likely leads to serious illnesses that may take decades to present themselves after initial exposure to it.