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Report: Secondhand asbestos exposure more likely for women

Asbestos exposure can cause any person to develop a life-threatening illness at any age. This exposure can cause diseases, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, which can take decades to start showing symptoms. This means that victims who are currently facing a devastating diagnosis were likely exposed to asbestos 10, 20 or even 50 years ago.

People who have come into direct contact with asbestos are often males who worked in industries that include construction, shipbuilding and even those who were in the U.S. Navy. These jobs put workers at an increased risk of working closely with materials that contained asbestos such as insulation and piping and breathing in the airborne fibers. However, the mothers and wives waiting for these workers to come home were also susceptible to dangerous levels of asbestos exposure.

In the past, it was not uncommon for workers to come home coated in asbestos dust that was kicked up on a jobsite. These particles were then tracked in to a person's home on clothes and shoes. It was at this point that many women would breathe in the asbestos particles on the work clothes day in and day out as they'd hug their husband or son, or take the clothes to be washed.

According to a recent Irish report by the National Cancer Registry, women who suffer from mesothelioma or asbestosis are more likely to have been the victim of secondhand exposure versus direct contact with the toxic fiber. It is also reported that men were at least 5 times more likely to develop a disease related to asbestos than women because men were generally the ones who worked in dangerous working environments. However, women became victims of asbestos exposure when workers tracked it back home, and they continue to be at risk for being diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.

Many victims of toxic exposure to asbestos are in their 60s, 70s or 80s by the time doctors can make a diagnosis, though the recent report indicates that 18 percent of women diagnosed with mesothelioma are under the age of 50. This could very well indicate that the children of fathers who worked in these dangerous jobs and industries experienced the same lethal levels of exposure as their parents.

Source: Irish Independent, "Wives victim to cancer from asbestos on husband's clothes," Jan. 14, 2013

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