It has been known for quite some time that direct exposure to asbestos can be very harmful. Those who worked in an industrial setting that exposed them to asbestos in past decades were very likely to experience serious health consequences as a result later on, and those consequences continue to be a problem today. 

If you aren’t old enough to have worked in such a setting, it could feel like you are in the clear. Sadly, that might not be entirely true. Children of industrial workers were often exposed in a second-hand manner, even if they didn’t know it – as were spouses and others living in the home. Now, decades later, health issues can start to crop up that are connected to exposure. Symptoms tend to take a very long time to manifest, so, for example, someone who was exposed in a second-hand manner in the ‘70s may just now be seeing symptoms arise for the first time. 

Second-hand Exposure is Still Exposure 

One of the main mistakes that is made when dealing with second-hand exposure of any kind is assuming that it is not that dangerous, because it is second-hand rather than direct exposure. That simply isn’t the truth. Second-hand exposure is still exposure, and it still needs to be treated seriously. This is the case with something like cigarette smoke, and it’s the case with exposure to asbestos as well. 

Once one understands that any kind of exposure to asbestos is dangerous, even second-hand, they can take a new look at their own unique situation or the situation of their loved ones to determine whether there is a risk. Again, having a parent who worked closely with asbestos is a major risk factor for second-hand exposure – in fact, it would be unlikely for someone in such a position to not have been exposed as microscopic fibers were likely constantly present in the home and in the family vehicles. 

The Nature of Asbestos Is What Makes It Dangerous 

It’s the same features of asbestos that once made it so appealing in industrial applications that made it so dangerous and allowed it to cause harm to so many people. First, it is “sticky” – meaning, it can easily come home with workers, whether it is attached to their clothes, the insides of their vehicles, or anything else, as mentioned previously. After easily making the trip home from a factory, the fibers were often able to impact the health of everyone else in the family, beyond just those working with it directly.

Also, asbestos fibers are extremely durable, another feature that was attractive for industrial applications. In other words, rather than wearing down quickly, or simply being absorbed into the surrounding environment, asbestos fibers are tough and not easily eliminated. So, they can get into one’s body even as a young child and they will remain there for years to come – potentially throughout the rest of your life. 

What Are the Risks? 

People who were exposed in a second-hand manner to asbestos might not fully understand just how dangerous this can be. Sadly, millions have died over the years from diseases known to be related to asbestos, and while its use has become heavily regulated in more recent times, the danger is far from gone. 

Mesothelioma is perhaps the most well-known disease associated with asbestos exposure. Being diagnosed with this form of cancer is a devastating event, as the prognosis is grim, and many patients are unable to survive more than a few years with the disease – sometimes far less. While rare in the general population of people, mesothelioma happens relatively frequently in those with a history of prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers. 

Even if someone who experienced second-hand exposure to asbestos is able to avoid a mesothelioma diagnosis, there are plenty of other conditions that can significantly degrade their quality of life. Some of those other issues include pleural disease and asbestosis, both of which can make it difficult to breathe properly and can limit what people are able to do on a day-to-day basis. Whatever the outcome of exposure may be, it is likely to have some degree of an impact on human health, and there are significant costs that come along with this. 

A Long Timeline 

It’s hard for some people to believe just how long of a timeline can exist when it comes to the space between exposure and asbestos-related diseases. The latency of symptoms can range from 20-50 years, or even longer, meaning one may have long since forgotten about being exposed when signs of disease start to appear. Even if the exposure happened when a person was very young, and they are now well into their adult years, it’s possible that those early periods of exposure will now come back to cause problems thanks to the extreme durability of asbestos fibers.   

Seeking Fair Compensation 

The companies that allowed people to work in such dangerous conditions despite knowing about the risks of exposure fairly early on should be held accountable for their actions. Millions of people have suffered as a result, and while that suffering cannot be undone, financial compensation can be sought in order to pay for costly medical bills and help surviving individuals move on with their lives. 

The good news is, billions of dollars remain in asbestos trusts waiting to be claimed by people who have been harmed. This not only includes people who were directly exposed by working in a factory or mine several decades ago, but also people who experienced second-hand exposure through a family member or in a community setting. If you believe that you may be a victim in this case, exploring your options and seeing if you might qualify to claim compensation is a worthwhile step to take. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you or a loved one could not have been affected by asbestos simply because you never worked in an industrial setting where exposure was common. Second-hand asbestos exposure has also done extensive damage to the health of many people. Whether having been exposed to asbestos fibers in the home or in other areas, seeking the appropriate care for whatever health symptoms arise, and considering legal action, can help improve the situation and make it more manageable. 

Full article: Asbestos-related cancers: the ‘Hidden Killer’ remains a global threat (