What is secondary asbestos exposure?
Legal and medical professionals have for a long time recognised asbestos as a hazardous substance that can cause a wide range of health complaints.
At first, most asbestos compensation claims were made by workers who had worked directly with asbestos on a daily basis. As asbestos is most commonly found in building and insulation materials, many victims were men who had worked in construction, shipbuilding, maintenance and factories.
In later decades, our understanding of asbestos exposure developed,and doctors identified a very different group of people who were falling ill. A wide variety of people, including women, children, school teachers and laundry workers were being diagnosed with asbestos related diseases.
Asbestos related illnesses are caused by the inhalation of dangerous asbestos fibres which can trigger long term health problems. Medical research has revealed the potential of asbestos fibres to cause fatal illnesses even at very low levels – so people who do not directly work with it can be affected. This is called secondary asbestos exposure.
Many of the non workers falling ill were family members of asbestos workers; involved in cleaning their clothes or working in old buildings that had high levels of asbestos.
How do you become ‘exposed’ to asbestos?
When asbestos is in dust form it is at its most dangerous. Most victims of asbestos exposure have fallen ill after inhaling the fibres in one way or another. Many have lived or worked in environments where this asbestos dust is found. Asbestos dust can be transmitted via:
- Dust on the clothes or equipment of asbestos workers
- Buildings with poor ventilation and asbestos.
- Air vents in factories using asbestos
- Damaged building materials (tiles, bricks etc) containing asbestos
- Burnt or damaged buildings that have high levels of asbestos
Who is at risk from secondary asbestos exposure?
The UK Governments Health and Safety executive refuses to set a ‘safe level’ of asbestos exposure. This effectively means that anyone who has come into contact with asbestos, particularly on a regular basis, could be at risk from illnesses caused by secondary asbestos exposure.
- Family members (often women) who washed and cleaned the clothes of asbestos workers.
- Children who sat and played with asbestos workers after they came home from work.
- People living near asbestos factories.
- Workers in buildings with high levels of asbestos ( e.g. schools and offices built in the 1930’s-1970’s).
- Laundry workers and cleaners.
- Demolition workers and anyone coming into contact with broken building materials high in asbestos.
What illnesses can secondary asbestos exposure cause?
Victims of secondary asbestos exposure can suffer the same disabiling and painful conditions as people who have worked directly with the substance.
- Lung damage
- Pleural plaques
- Pleural thickening
- Malignant mesothelisoma (cancer of the lung lining)
- Other asbestos related cancer
Like any asbestos related illness, people may not suffer the symptoms of asbestos exposure until decades afterwards. Although the levels of asbestos fibres may be lower, the illnesses caused by secondary exposure can be just as life threatening.
At Macks Solicitors, we believe that people who are suffering from the devastating effects of secondary asbestos exposure, are as deserving of compensation as workers who directly handled asbestos.