Indirect Asbestos Exposure is Very Common

Most people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma have been in some way exposed directly to asbestos. They may have been involved in either the mining or transportation of the dangerous mineral or in the production of the main products that contain asbestos. They may also have been exposed through its many uses in such industries as […]

Most people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma have been in some way exposed directly to asbestos. They may have been involved in either the mining or transportation of the dangerous mineral or in the production of the main products that contain asbestos. They may also have been exposed through its many uses in such industries as shipbuilding, construction, or engineering.

It is also possible to develop malignant mesothelioma through indirect contact while working with asbestos workers or from being in contact with friends or family members who have been exposed. In fact, there are several ways that people can be indirectly exposed to asbestos.

Bystander Exposure

This is also referred to as indirect occupation exposure. This type of exposure can happen when working close to people who have been using asbestos, like insulators or those people whose job it was to mix asbestos. Bystander exposure can affect carpenters, plumbers, scrap metal workers, electricians, welders, and boiler makers.

Domestic Exposure

Asbestos dust would commonly settle on the clothing of men who worked with the toxic substance. Since these companies generally did not provide a place on site for these men to launder their clothing, this dust was carried home with them so that it could get into upholstery, drapes, and carpet. Women who did the laundry for their husband handled these clothes that were thick with asbestos dust.

Because of this, family members were at risk of developing malignant mesothelioma. In fact, according to one study this domestic exposure accounts for nearly 15 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Another study shows this number to be as high as 26 percent.

Environmental Exposure

This type of exposure occurs in the areas around facilities that mill or manufacture asbestos. An example of this is the town of Libby, Montana that at one time mined vermiculite. It was discovered later that the vermiculite was contaminated with asbestos. Children who used to play in the slag heaps around this town have since developed mesothelioma and other diseases related to asbestos. There are 28 sites around the world that used most of the vermiculite from those mines in Montana.

There are also cases of non-industrial environmental exposure to asbestos involving soil contaminated with asbestos fibers or certain types of fibrous rocks containing asbestos being used in buildings.

Passive Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos use was extremely widespread in the decades before the 1970s, but especially during that decade. It was used in the building of innumerable commercial, residential, and public buildings. It has been estimated that there were at one time 720,000 public buildings that contained asbestos. As a result, millions of people have been exposed passively to asbestos.

The risk is much less for developing mesothelioma and other conditions relating to asbestos when exposure is passive rather than direct, with the possible exception of those in custodial functions. However, in one study done on deaths due to mesothelioma, 50 percent of the most common occupations did not involve industries most commonly linked to asbestos exposure.

Another study showed that in the 1970s, somewhere between 2 and 6 million school children and 100,000 to 300,000 teachers were exposed to asbestos in their schools.

Consumer Products

Many consumer products in the past were made using asbestos and it is actually still used to some extent today. Some of the types of products that exposed people to asbestos in the past are:

  • Electric blankets
  • Curling irons and hair dryers
  • Heat guns
  • Deep fryers
  • Toasters
  • Slow cookers
  • Insulation for wrapping pipes
  • Patching material for dry wall
  • Heat proof protection for walls and floors

The consumer Products Safety Commission has banned most products that contain asbestos, but there are still some available that may have asbestos in them. This includes things like roofing products, gaskets, and friction products. These items are generally not labeled as containing asbestos.

 

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