It is a widely accepted scientific conclusion that a direct exposure to asbestos can lead to serious life threatening medical conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancers and other asbestos-related illnesses. Past and present asbestos workers are recognized as being as serious risk of these conditions. Recently, the dangers of secondary asbestos exposure have come to light. Secondary asbestos exposure can occur either through indirect exposure in a household in which a family member works directly with the hazardous material and it remains on their clothing and other personal items brought into the home, or through environmental exposure in which asbestos fibers are released into the air of a community in close proximity of the source, such as an asbestos mine or manufacturing facility. The Pennsylvania and New Jersey asbestos attorneys of Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler in Philadelphia are increasingly seeing instances of secondhand asbestos exposure resulting in devastating health consequences to our clients and their families.
Long before the dangers of asbestos were acknowledged and regulations and precautions were employed for proper handling of the substance to avoid exposure, workers who had direct contact with asbestos or asbestos-containing materials often returned home from their jobs with their skin, hair and clothing covered in asbestos dust. They unknowingly exposed their family members to microscopic asbestos fibers. Children hugging or sitting on the laps of their fathers or grandfathers upon their return home from work were regularly exposed to the deadly substance. Workers would sit on furniture before changing their clothes allowing the asbestos particles to become embedded into the furniture cushions. Unsuspecting family members were subjected to secondary asbestos exposure when they would sit or lie on the furniture themselves.
In addition, whoever was responsible for doing the cleaning and laundering of the clothes was especially vulnerable to suffering secondhand asbestos exposure. The clothes were often shaken out prior to washing them causing the fibers to be distributed into the air. Family members were inadvertently inhaling these fibers on a regular basis leading to an asbestos-related disease that would surface many years later.
Secondary environmental asbestos exposures may occur in communities where there were power plants, shipyards, asbestos mines or facilities that manufactured asbestos-containing products. The air surrounding these asbestos workplaces was regularly contaminated with asbestos placing the nearby residents at serious health risks. In addition, the communities’ water supplies were often compromised by asbestos contamination.
One town in particular that has suffered the catastrophic effects of a community contamination by asbestos is Libby, Montana. This small town had an operating vermiculite asbestos mine from 1923 until 1991. Asbestos fibers and dust circulated in the air around the town and “leftover” asbestos was actually used as fill for baseball fields, playgrounds, gardens and private lawns. Sadly, hundreds of people who had never even worked at the mine were indirectly exposed to asbestos and have become seriously ill with known asbestos-related diseases. Residents of Libby, Montana continue to be diagnosed with an asbestos-related medical conditions.
In the late 1980s, researchers at New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center studied the health of over 600 family members from the 1,664 workers employed at a factory between 1941 and 1954 in Patterson, New Jersey. Five cases of mesothelioma were found among the factory workers’ family members. In addition, asbestos dust was found in the homes of former Patterson factory workers 20 years after the factory shut down. The European Journal of Cancer Prevention recently published a study that stated “non-occupational exposure to asbestos may explain approximately 20% of the mesothelioma in industrialized countries.”
While the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased worldwide, it is already too late for the individuals who were exposed many years ago as symptoms of mesothelioma do not become evident for up to 20 to 60 years after asbestos exposure. Anyone who has suffered from asbestos exposure whether it is direct or secondhand, should seek legal counsel from an experienced asbestos attorney to determine what legal options are available. While seeking justice with an asbestos lawsuit can’t reverse your health condition, you can secure the financial compensation that is necessary to obtain the most current medical treatments and to provide for your family.
If you or someone you love is suffering from mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer or any other asbestos-related illness caused by either direct contact with asbestos or by secondhand exposure, we encourage you to call the Pennsylvania and New Jersey asbestos lawyers at the Philadelphia law offices of Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler. We have focused a key area of our practice to providing legal guidance and support to asbestos victims and their families. Call 800-369-0899 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced asbestos lawyer or email us.