Today we’re talking a look at second hand asbestos exposure. We’re probably all fully aware of the dangers of asbestos and the harrowing health problems that can result from asbestos exposure. Even though asbestos use was banned in the UK in 1999, asbestos was so widely used throughout industry for so many years that exposure is still a real problem, especially in the construction industry. Asbestos problems will be with us for many years to come due to the fact that it can take more than 20 years for the first symptoms of mesothelioma (the fatal disease that results from exposure to asbestos fibres) to develop and often takes years longer than that.
So, just what is second hand asbestos exposure? It’s not exposure to the fibres in second hand asbestos but is defined as second hand exposure to asbestos fibres. This is how it works.
Although the men and women who have worked directly with asbestos are at risk of developing the dreaded asbestos disease, we are now discovering that the disease can occur in others as a result of second hand exposure.
For instance, if a worker wore overalls to work and then wore them home at the end of the day, there is a risk that his family were at risk of second hand exposure. Imagine the scene – the husband coming in from a hard day at work, kissing his wife, hugging the children and then going off to get cleaned up ready for an evening meal. He may have stripped off in the bathroom and deposited his dirty overalls in the laundry basket before showering and putting on clean clothes.
When his wife deals with the laundry the next day, no doubt she will have shaken off the overalls before loading them into the washing machine. This will have resulted in deadly asbestos fibres being distributed throughout the home, putting the whole family at risk of asbestos related diseases.
In the days before awareness was raised on the dangers of asbestos, this would have been a common occurrence in homes throughout the UK (and in many other parts of the world). Families of those who worked with asbestos will have been inadvertently exposed to these dangerous fibres in their cars and in their homes. Second hand exposure to asbestos is a deadly business and we’ve already seen some cases where family members of workers have contracted mesothelioma.
With deaths from asbestos related diseases predicted to peak in the UK in the coming five years or so, we’re sure to see more cases of second hand asbestos exposure in the news. If you think you or other members of your family may have been affected by second hand asbestos, then check out the information available on the British Lung Foundation’s website.