How Wives and Daughters were Unwittingly Exposed to Asbestos

When people talk about mesothelioma, the conversation often centers around older, male, blue-collar workers. It was predominantly men that held jobs in high-risk industries such as construction, the manufacturing of building materials, mining, oil refineries and shipyards.

This typical conversation leaves out a notable group of mesothelioma victims: the women that lived with these men.

Fibers Came Home with the Workers

Mesothelioma is linked to asbestos exposure. During the middle of the 20th century, many industries across the U.S. used asbestos. Workers at these companies would be regularly exposed to the material’s dangerous fibers, inhaling them into their lungs. Decades later, they often developed related illnesses such as mesothelioma.

These asbestos fibers did not just enter workers’ bodies, however. They often clung to the men’s clothing, skin and hair, traveling home with them. There, the workers’ spouse and children could be exposed. Women who did the laundry, for example, would unknowingly inhale asbestos fibers from the dirty work clothes.

New Study Looks at Household Contact

The type of secondhand exposure described above is known as household contact exposure. A study released in March of 2020 offered some new insight into this little-discussed problem.

Researchers reviewed 354 cases of malignant diffuse mesothelioma in women. In 200 of these cases (so well over half), household exposure was the only known possible source of asbestos. Of those, 49% were the wives of a man that worked around asbestos, while 27% were daughters.

These wives tended to develop mesothelioma when they were older, at an average age of 67. The daughters, meanwhile, developed mesothelioma at an average age of just 48 years old.

One of the most difficult aspects of responding to mesothelioma is the time it takes to reveal itself. Victims may not develop symptoms until years or decades after their exposure to asbestos, whether it occurred at work or in the home. No matter how much time has passed, if a company’s negligent actions put an individual in harm’s way, it is possible to hold them accountable.