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Wife dies from mesothelioma, never visited worksite

A wrongful death suit is now pending in British courts after a 56-year-old British woman died from continuous exposure to asbestos on her husband's clothing. Her husband was a construction worker whose jobs involved sweeping the asbestos yard and moving large sheets of the substance.

The man himself did not develop any of the deadly cancers associated with asbestos exposure, but his wife experienced a second-hand exposure to the fiber. The woman, who would shake off her husband's asbestos-covered clothing while doing laundry, started to have some trouble breathing. Reports show that the woman's lungs were filled with scar tissue and other evidence of mesothelioma, which confirm that her death was caused by asbestos particles.

The woman's husband testified that in the early days of his construction career, no laundry facilities existed on-site for laborers. All of the workers simply took their clothing home to be cleaned, he said, where many wives were unprepared to handle such a toxic substance.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that the woman had been shaking out the contaminated laundry for more than 10 years. Before she would put the soiled clothes in the wash, she would shake as much of the dust and dirt off as possible, inhaling much of the loosened dust. This practice eventually led to her developing mesothelioma, which is a cancer that targets the lining of the lungs. She died less than a year after the diagnosis.

It is important to recognize that industrial diseases do not only affect those directly exposed to the dangerous working conditions. Rather, family members and friends can also fall prey to industrial ailments despite never setting foot on the worksite. This family's unfortunate situation provides an unusual insight about the importance of asbestos education and safety procedures that protect both workers and their families.

Source: Derby Telegraph, "Wife killed by asbestos on husband's clothes," Feb. 25, 2012

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