Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material. It has several beneficial properties and has been used for many years in products designed to provide fire retardant and insulating properties. Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos poses a serious risk of lung disease, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, which is a form of lung cancer.
Asbestos breaks up into tiny fibrous particles that can remain airborne for significant amounts of time. The particles have a rough texture and tend to stick to surfaces, such as shoes, clothing, and hair. When inhaled, the particles stick to the lung where they may cause damage and disease.
Primary asbestos exposure happens when a person directly handles asbestos. This mostly occurs in the course of employment. Examples include mining raw material, as well as handling and manufacturing asbestos-containing products.
Secondary asbestos exposure occurs when someone comes in contact with a person who has experienced primary asbestos exposure. Dangers of secondary asbestos exposure were recognized as early as 1897 when a physician noted asbestos workers, as well as their family members, were experiencing ill health. Secondary asbestos exposure was not recognized as a problem in the U.S. until the 1960s.
The danger of secondary exposure is far from trivial. Asbestos is so dangerous that exposure to even small amounts risks disease. A study performed in 1978 found that women with secondary exposure had an increased risk of mesothelioma compared to the general population. The typical victims of secondary asbestos exposure are family members, friends, and associates of a person who experienced primary asbestos exposure. In fact, most secondary asbestos exposure victims are women whose husbands are primarily exposed. Sadly, many children of asbestos workers are also affected.
The primary sources of secondary exposure include vehicles, personal contact, furniture, and laundry. Washing asbestos-contaminated clothes in household laundry facilities both fails to remove the asbestos effectively and contaminates other clothes being washed.
Today, the risk of asbestos workers bringing home contamination is decreased due to strict OSHA standards. Employees must be provided with personal protective equipment to prevent inhalation, skin contact, and contamination of clothing. In addition, employers must provide adequate shower and changing facilities to minimize the risk of secondary asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, not all employers satisfy OSHA standards.
Establishing liability for secondary asbestos exposure victims can be a challenge. Asbestos disease usually has a latency period of 20 years or more. The plaintiff must be able to identify the source of the asbestos. A successful claim will also need to show fault for failing to sufficiently warn of the danger of exposure and/or to protect against the danger. A victim who did not directly work with the asbestos-containing material may not know which product contributed to their exposure. This is most common when the primary exposure victim has passed away.
Victims of secondary asbestos exposure have been awarded compensation. In 2006, New Jersey’s Supreme Court held that spouses of asbestos workers may hold companies liable for illnesses caused by secondary exposure. In 2016, it extended the duty of care to anyone who lived with asbestos workers, including children, domestic partners, and visitors.
If you were exposed to asbestos and developed an illness due to exposure, contact the Dover asbestos lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. today. We have represented victims of both primary and secondary asbestos exposure. For a free consultation, call us at 302-656-5445 or complete an online form. Located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.