Mesothelioma results after asbestos fibers become trapped in the lining of the lungs. In the past, the majority of mesothelioma cases belonged to men. This is largely because contact with asbestos occurs most often at blue-collar job sites due to its use in construction material and insulation.
In recent years, however, women have been closing the gender gap when it comes to mesothelioma. One-quarter of all new mesothelioma cases are women and that number is growing. There are numerous reasons for this surge in female cases.
With the rise of subcontractors at many construction sites comes a decrease in safety protocols. These elements combine to create the perfect storm for causing mesothelioma through second-hand exposure.
When workers are not handling materials safely, they can unknowingly bring asbestos home where deadly exposure to the family can occur. Those who do laundry—usually the wife or children—are the most in danger of asbestos exposure. The girls in a household are more likely to handle laundry than the boys and some researchers believe that this explains the younger age at which women are being diagnosed. While men typically develop mesothelioma in their 70s, the average age for women is their 40s.
Another reason for the increase in mesothelioma cases among women is the closing gender gap in the workforce and military over the last few decades. As more women work construction jobs and serve in military occupations, first-hand exposure of women has increased.
Today, 28 percent of manufacturing workers are female. Thirteen percent of women are in mining, nine percent are in construction, nearly six percent are firefighters, and between two and three percent are pipefitters, plumbers, mechanics and roofers. These industries commonly employ asbestos and composite materials.
Another reason for the increase is that in the 50s, asbestos was common in school and office construction. Starting in the 80s, many of these structures underwent renovations. Workers who cut, ground, and sanded asbestos-laden materials released the fibers into the air, which teachers and female office workers inhaled.
All workers who are at risk of asbestos exposure should be aware that there are simple steps to preventing exposure. Workers should wear a respirator when handling, grinding, sanding, or cutting asbestos. Before leaving the jobsite, workers should change clothes. If the employee does not have the means to clean clothing away from their home, they should bag their clothes up and place them in their trunk for transport. They should find a way to rinse the dust from the clothing before bringing it into the home – ideally, keeping a separate washing machine outside for cleaning these clothes and wearing a respirator when loading the wash.
If you or a loved one has been affected by mesothelioma, contact a Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyer at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler. To set up an initial consultation, complete our online form or call 215-569-4000 or 800-369-0899.