Asbestos exposure comes in a variety of forms, but asbestos plays no favorites with its victims. The current trend of the asbestos health crisis has shown this to be the case, especially when it comes to asbestos exposure and women. Gone are the days when asbestos could be assumed as a healt risk only for industry workers comprised mostly of men. In fact, a close look at this health crisis will show that women have always been in the crosshairs of asbestos-related diseases, and that trend is no different today. Here’s what you need to know about asbestos and women.

The Historical Precedent of Women and Asbestos

One of the most important figures in asbestos history is a woman name Nellie Kershaw. Unfortunately, Kershaw did not make the history books as a hero of asbestos, but rather, as a victim of asbestos. Miss Kershaw was born in the late 1800s and worked in the cotton mill industry. 

Aprender más acerca de Nellie Kershaw, the first person to ever file for worker’s compensation with an asbestos company. Her claim was denied, and she died penniless.

Before her 30th birthday, this industrial worker developed pulmonary symptoms from asbestos exposure, which led to her untimely death. Kershaw worked for one of the most well known asbestos companies, Turner Brothers. Her symptoms quickly developed to a debilitating condition that caused her to seek an official diagnosis, followed by receiving a National Health Insurance Certificate that stated her inability to work. 

Kershaw’s historical example is a key turning point in asbestos history that prompted future litigation, as well as asbestos research to connect the dots between asbestos exposure in people like Kershaw and the deadly diseases that often follow from working with asbestos. Kershaw fought for her right to receive compensation and hold asbestos companies liable, but she sadly did not live to see justice served in her life. 

However, Kershaw’s legacy includes the development of future research linking asbestos exposure to both immediate as well as delayed symptoms, known as the latency of asbestos. Today, studies show there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and people exposed to asbestos in their twenties have developed asbestos-related illnesses forty or fifty decades later.

Homemakers at Risk

Of course, those who are skeptical of the risk of women and asbestos exposure may simply argue that people like Kershaw are at a higher risk of asbestos diseases, due to their jobs. It is true that asbestos poses a threat to asbestos workers especially, but that is far from arguing that asbestos only poses a risk to asbestos workers.

Contemporary trends of mesothelioma were identified by a 2020 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and tne sober point of information in that report included the surprising rise of cases among women. According to the CDC, 20% of the total number of deaths attributed to mesothelioma were homemakers. Of these women, many had no known personal history of working with asbestos. 

This point highlights the important threat of asbestos which can be overlooked if we limit our concerns to asbestos workers. Asbestos exposure can take place as secondary exposure. On the one hand, secondary exposure takes place when asbestos workers, often husbands and fathers, unknowingly contaminate their homes with asbestos fibers carried on their clothing or tools from the job site. Ironically, our modern innovations of things like washing machines, dryers, and air conditioning units end up further contaminating the entire home with asbestos, putting family members at risk of ingesting or inhaling fibers.

Talc and the Hidden Dangers of Asbestos

Baby Powder and Cosmetics

The current litigation involving Johnson and Johnson and the use of talc baby powder also brings up instances where women are at risk. The use of talc in products like baby powder and cosmetic supplies has prompted an onslaught of litigation, involving numerous individuals who claim they have developed asbestos related cancers such as ovarian cancer

The use of talc has been problematic, since it is a co-occuring mineral with asbestos. When these products are developed in areas with little to no regulation, the possibility of talc becoming contaminated with asbestos is quite high. Suddenly, it becomes less tenable to simply dismiss the risk of women developing asbestos disease as a concern only for industry workers. In short, anyone using products that may have been contaminated with asbestos- especially those used by women- are at a high risk.

Environmental Risks

Asbestos exposure can also be a risk for homes containing productos de asbestos, particularly if the products are damaged from things like natural disasters (hurricanes, tornados), or fire and flood damages. 

Women can be homemakers or career workers who stay in the office almost everyday of the week, but if they dwell in a contaminated home, they are still at risk of the same outcome of exposure that would apply to someone who is an asbestos worker, including mesothelioma. 

This problem exponentially grows over time as well. One researcher notes: 

“The younger you were when you were first exposed to asbestos, the more likely you are to develop asbestos disease like mesothelioma, even if it was a small amount.” 

Base Housing

Speaking of contaminated homes, one other component of this health crisis in women has recently received a growing number of headlines, that of on-base housing. The military has a rocky history with asbestos, not only in its use of asbestos products to insulate naval vessels and aircraft, but also in the streamlined use of asbestos in barracks and base housing facilities. 

Many facilities have begun the process of remediation, which means the removing of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) with safer alternatives. However, leaked documents have shown that this process is not always streamlined nor has it been maintained with the level of scrutiny that it requires in order to keep women safe in base housing facilities. The US Army reported last year that internal auditors found an inadequate among of oversight, putting families at risk of lead paint, asbestos, and other contaminants found in base housing. 

Takeaway on Women and Asbestos Exposure

With such alarming examples in mind, it’s easy to see why women are at the center of a hidden health crisis of asbestos exposure. What’s more, the problem of asbestos exposure is much more prevalent than we might try to safely assume. Because of this, it is important to take action and undergo the necessary research process to determine if you might be at risk of experiencing life-threatening asbestos exposure symptoms. If you have been exposed to asbestos, there’s compensation options available. Reach out to us today, entirely risk free, and we’ll help you take the necessary steps to get the help you need.