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Who are the indirect victims of asbestos exposure?

Asbestos has long been identified as a carcinogen. That means that exposure to the toxic substance can cause cancers such as mesothelioma, which is an aggressive and fatal disease. Even though people have known for decades that asbestos exposure can be toxic, many people went to work every day without being properly protected. Those who worked in shipyards, on construction sites and on railroads were among those exposed to asbestos on a regular basis. 

It is not surprising, then, to note that many people who are now being diagnosed with a devastating asbestos-related disease worked in these and similar industries for years. Many victims breathed in the asbestos dust kicked up on the job, and the fibers entered their lungs where they sat for years before a person started experiencing symptoms of a lung disease.

But there are other victims of asbestos-related diseases who may never have worked on a job site in their lives. These indirect victims are also being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis and other cancers. But where were they exposed to asbestos?

In many instances, the wives and children of employees who worked with asbestos were indirectly exposed to the fibers when a worker would come home, covered in asbestos dust. The asbestos stuck to clothing and shoes and was tracked home only to contaminate a person's home. The wives of these workers would often shake off the dust before washing the clothes, and after doing this every day, many of them developed an asbestos-related disease.

A man recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of his wife, who passed away from lung cancer last year, claiming that he had been exposed to asbestos while working for Texaco for years. During that time, his wife breathed in the asbestos dust he tracked into their home and car and she developed asbestos-related cancer. He filed the lawsuit against his former employer for damages related to her wrongful death

Sadly, this is more common than people may realize. Indirect exposure to asbestos can be just as dangerous as breathing it in the second it's released into the air. Negligent parties who did not protect workers against asbestos or explain the hazards of exposure put not only an employee's life at risk, but also the lives of that employee's family members.

Source: The Southeast Texas Record, "Woman was exposed to asbestos through husband's employment at Texaco, suit alleges," David Yates, Sept. 18, 2013

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