Secondary Exposure to Asbestos

People who are exposed to asbestos at work can carry asbestos fibers home on their clothing, skin or hair, putting family members at risk for disease. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of secondary asbestos exposure from the workplace, you may be eligible to file a claim.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to a number of diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Although occupational asbestos exposure (which occurs at work) is the most common, the family members of people who work with asbestos are also at risk because asbestos can be carried home by the worker. This is known as secondary asbestos exposure, and it’s the most common cause of mesothelioma among women.

How does secondary asbestos exposure occur?

Secondary exposure to asbestos occurs when a person lives with someone who works with or around asbestos. If proper work precautions are not in place, the worker may carry microscopic asbestos fibers on their clothing, hair and skin when they leave the workplace. When they come home from work, these fibers enter the home, exposing family members.

Secondary asbestos exposure may occur a few different ways:

In the past, before asbestos was as stringently regulated as it is now, workers would generally come straight home from work without showering or changing clothes. This could result in them bringing significant levels of asbestos with them into their home environments. During this time period, it was also common for women to do most of the housework. This could expose them to high levels of asbestos through activities like laundry and vacuuming.

Although asbestos use is less common today, there are still people being exposed to asbestos at work. An estimated 1.3 million construction workers in the United States are considered to be at risk for occupational asbestos exposure. If their employers don’t ensure that they can change clothing and shower before leaving work, the families of these workers are at risk for secondary asbestos exposure.

Secondary asbestos exposure is also known by a few other names, including:

  • Para-occupational asbestos exposure
  • Household asbestos exposure
  • Domestic asbestos exposure
  • Secondhand asbestos exposure

These terms all mean the same thing as secondary asbestos exposure. Different research papers may use different terms to refer to the same type of exposure.