In the past, we have discussed the dangers of exposed workers bringing home tainted clothing or failing to scrub toxic materials from their skin after leaving the job. Asbestos fibers can be transferred from the primary individual to friends or family members through hugs or other incidental contact. This type of exposure is generally referred to as secondary asbestos exposure.
Unfortunately, this exposure puts children directly in the crosshairs of numerous deadly diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Many studies have shown a direct link from secondary or household exposure to increased risk for lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
Laundry: A primary concern
A number of studies cite asbestos-contaminated clothing as an exposure pathway. It might be easy to trace direct exposure – an arm draped over a loved one’s shoulder, a hug, a pat on the back, a child wearing a parent’s hat or jacket after work – but indirect exposure can be just as dangerous. As the dirty work clothes are laundered, they are not always separated from other laundry. Asbestos fibers can be transferred from one article of clothing to another in the washing machine. For example, the fibers on a contaminated work shirt can be transferred to a child’s school uniform in the wash. Unfortunately, consumer equipment generally lacks the power to completely remove and expel the dangerous fibers.
Researchers believe children exposed at an early age may be more likely to develop the diseases than people who suffer their initial exposure later in life. Studies in the United States and abroad have been designed to examine this link.
Workers should take precautions to not only prevent primary exposure but to avoid secondary exposure as well.
- Wash or shower before leaving work
- Change clothes before leaving work
- Keep “work” clothes totally separate from “home” clothes
- Do not wash work clothes and home clothes together
- Wash work clothes at work whenever possible
If you are concerned that you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos fibers, it is imperative that you act quickly to discuss the situation with trusted medical and legal professionals.