Secondary exposure to asbestos remains a legitimate health threat. How does it happen? Usually it happens when workers in occupations like the building and construction trades unknowingly encounter asbestos on the jobsite and wear their contaminated clothing home. Or, people may share a workspace with someone with regular on-the-job exposure to asbestos.
Once exposed, their clothing, hair, shoes, skin and tools may become contaminated with asbestos fibers. When inhaled, these deadly asbestos fibers may settle into the lungs and stomach lining, eventually leading to cancers including mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Workers may bring the fibers home
A long list of people faces occupational exposure to fire-resistant asbestos. Workers include auto mechanics, building inspectors, carpenters, factory workers, firefighters, furnace workers, maintenance workers, painters, plasterers, sheet metal workers, tile setters, and welders.
Any of these workers may unknowingly expose themselves and their families to asbestos. This is why it continues to be important for employers to properly train their workers in identifying and handling asbestos, the need to wear proper clothing and protection, the proper way to dispose of contaminated clothing, and the necessity of washing oneself after working with asbestos. It is also why it is so troubling that the manufacturers and suppliers of these asbestos-containing products did not do more in the past to warn employers and employees of the dangers of asbestos and the many ways individuals and even their family members can be exposed.
Furniture, laundry, physical contact
The following list provides some in-home sources that may lead to secondary asbestos exposure to family members:
- Furniture and home furnishings: Asbestos fibers on contaminated work clothing may attach to chairs, sofas, curtains, carpeting, rugs, and beds.
- Laundry: Oftentimes, the person doing the laundry might shake out the dusty clothing before placing the itmes into the laundry machine. Doing so can create a cloud of deadly dust each time. This dust then circulates in the air until it settles on the items identified above..
- Physical contact: A worker’s hair and skin may contain asbestos dust and fibers. Handshakes, hugs, and gentle play-wrestling with the children could lead to future health problems.
- Cars and trucks: While maybe not an “in home” source of secondary exposure, asbestos fibers on contaminated work clothing may also be introduced into the exposed person’s vehicle and settle on the car seats and carpeting. It may be that this same vehicle serves as the family’s main vehicle at nights or on weekends. Each time a family member rides in this vehicle, they might be unknowingly exposed.
Be careful and be aware of the dangers of secondary asbestos exposure. It is a threat that, sometimes, does not get the attention it deserves.
Remain alert and aware
Asbestos can disrupt routine matters in a person’s life. This includes your household and its members who may suddenly face health complications decades after secondary exposure to asbestos. Staying alert and aware of the hazards of asbestos is essential.