Women Develop Mesothelioma From Secondary Asbestos Exposure

During the early- to mid-20th century, more men worked outside the home and in jobs where asbestos-laden materials were typically used. This resulted in male workers later developing asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma. However, due to a phenomenon known as secondary exposure, women were also subjected to asbestos fibers and dust through their husbands and other male family members. In recent years, many women have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, even though more men have the disease.

Gender-Biased Numbers

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that almost 14,600 men died of malignant mesothelioma between 1999 and 2005. During the same period, close to 3,500 women were also killed by the disease. This averages out to around 2,000 male and 500 female deaths due to malignant mesothelioma annually from 2000 to 2005. While the mesothelioma diagnoses and fatality rates are higher among males, the detection of this asbestos-related disease is unfortunately on the rise among females.

Secondary Asbestos Exposure

Secondary exposure to asbestos may have occurred when women handled items like tools and clothing after the males in the house came home from working around asbestos-laden materials. The asbestos fibers or dust would be shaken into the air from the clothes or other objects and then inhaled by the nearby women. When this happened almost daily for many years, women began to develop asbestos-related cancers like pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma, which attacked the linings of their hearts and abdomens, respectively.

Danger of Secondary Exposure

One study about the domestic exposure of housewives to asbestos conducted in 1989 determined secondary exposure to toxic substances like asbestos can be just as intense as direct handling. Another study administered in 1997 by the Durham and Duke University Medical Centers claimed over half of women diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos through household contact. Secondary exposure may also occur when asbestos fibers are in the air in towns around mines or natural asbestos deposits, but this is rare.

Validity of Legal Claims

Around eight percent of mesothelioma cases are diagnosed among women each year, many due to secondary asbestos exposure. Although women are at a lower risk of incurring mesothelioma than men, it is still a real fear for many women whose family members worked with asbestos-laden materials during the 20th century. In recent years, both laws and courts have taken a step in the right direction and acknowledged the validity of claims by women of secondary asbestos exposure that led to a mesothelioma diagnosis years later.

If you or your loved one was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, contact a mesothelioma lawyer in your area to discuss your legal rights and options. Many women who developed pleural, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma through secondary exposure have made legal claims for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering following their diagnosis, because they deserve compensation for their injuries.