Secondhand asbestos exposure poses threat to workers’ families

Secondhand asbestos exposure poses threat to workers’ families

In the early 1970s, a series of lawsuits forced companies to admit responsibility for exposing workers to the carcinogen known as asbestos. Used as insulation, tiling, roofing and more, this fiber was found all around steel mills, chemical and power plants, putting hundreds of thousands of workers at risk for asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

While much of the focus falls on those with occupational asbestos exposure, the families of the workers are at risk for developing illnesses through exposure at home.

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure and theories suggest any amount of the fiber can cause devastating health problems. Before companies began taking precautions with asbestos, workers would come home with the deadly fiber on their clothes, potentially threatening the lives of those around them.

Because asbestos-related diseases can take decades to develop, many are just learning of the long-term effects after exposure that occurred more than 20 years ago. Recent settlements highlight the risks to both workers and families from asbestos.

John Millsaps worked at ALCOA Inc. in Tennessee from 1965 to 1996. When he returned home from work in the evenings, he would be covered in dust, from his clothes and shoes to his skin and hair. He spent time with his family in this condition, including his son’s wife, Brenda. In 2009, Brenda died of mesothelioma resulting from this asbestos exposure.

In 1997, an Alabama man died from asbestos-related lung cancer after working with asbestos insulation at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. For more than two decades, his wife Barbara Bobo did his laundry, unintentionally exposing herself to asbestos. Fifteen years after her husband passed, Barbara also died of lung cancer from asbestos exposure.

Current laws limit the use and mining of asbestos, but it is still present today. The latency period means that people exposed 30 and 40 years ago can still get sick due to these long ago exposures. If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos and was diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, contact us today.

  • Associated Press, “Family gets $3.5 million after woman dies from asbestos doing husband’s laundry,” Times Free Press (Oct. 7, 2015). [Link]
  • Wes Wade, “Suit settled against ALCOA in Blount woman’s 2009 mesothelioma death,” The Daily Times (Oct. 9, 2015). [Link]
  • Wikipedia, “Heather Von St James,” (Oct. 16, 2013). [Link]

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