Strict regulations regarding asbestos exposure were enacted decades ago to ensure workers who handled the deadly material were protected from the devastating conditions that could result. Unfortunately, while these regulations sought to protect workers and those who faced primary exposure, they did little to reduce the danger faced by those who could be exposed after the fact.
While primary exposure happens to those who directly work with asbestos, secondary exposure happens to those who come into contact with friends or loved ones who were exposed. Secondary exposure, also called secondhand exposure, paraoccupational exposure or household exposure, can prove just as dangerous as primary exposure leading to asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung disease.
How does secondary exposure happen?
While there are certain protections in place and workers are more educated on the subject than they were years ago, secondary exposure can still occur. In years past, it was not uncommon for workers to complete their shift and come straight home from the job site. They might have greeted their loved ones, strolled around the home, even sat down for a meal before showering off the dust and grime that might have accumulated on their skin during their shift.
The work clothes that went into the wash were also likely contaminated with asbestos fibers. Commercial washing machines are generally not powerful enough to remove the fibers and would likely simply shuffle them around to other pieces of clothing in the same wash load.
These actions could very likely result in exposing close friends and family members to asbestos fibers. Unintentional exposure is still exposure.
How can this be prevented?
While providing warnings, education and instruction, workplaces must also provide the safety equipment necessary to prevent unintentional exposure. Workers should be encouraged to change out of contaminated clothing prior to leaving the worksite. Additionally, the company should include industrial washing and drying to thoroughly clean contaminated clothing.
Workers should have ample opportunity and services to wash contaminants off their skin before leaving for the day. Not only the hands, but workers should focus attention on the arms, face and hair – any place where asbestos fibers could settle.
Depending on countless factors, asbestos exposure can lead to debilitating, lifelong or fatal conditions. If you were exposed or you have lost a loved one to asbestos exposure, it is wise to seek the guidance of a skilled mesothelioma attorney.