Secondary Exposure to Asbestos & Cases of Mesothelioma

Primary or direct exposure to asbestos in the workplace has long been recognised as a dangerous health hazard. Indeed, it is estimated that over 2,000 deaths a years can be connected to the asbestos related cancer known as mesothelioma.

However, it is not always the case that victims of mesothelioma came into contact with asbestos from an occupational source. The medical profession has come to appreciate that those who did not work directly with the dangerous substance, so called “secondary victims” could also be affected by asbestos related diseases.

Sadly, such instances are becoming more common, raising a serious health concern.

Classic examples of such secondary exposure are cases involving women or children who inhaled asbestos fibres which were transferred back to the family home on contaminated clothing of the person who was directly exposed to asbestos during the course of their work such as a spouse, father, grandfather or brother.

Many recently pursued cases involving second-hand exposure have included wives and children of those who worked in the shipbuilding industry, at power stations for the electricity board or at various factories who worked with asbestos materials.

It would, of course, be common for the working men to return home from work wearing dusty overalls and shoes with asbestos fibres covering their hair and skin.  Upon coming home, their children would lovingly greet their father or grandfather, climb on their laps and then engage in play, being completely unaware of the silent danger from the asbestos dust. Such inhalation of asbestos fibres can result in the development of asbestos related illnesses, including mesothelioma in later life.

QualitySolicitors Oliver & Co have recently represented a man who lost his sister to mesothelioma at the premature age of 42.  She was exposed to asbestos from her father’s overalls over the course of an approximate 10 year period from 1965 onwards. As the sufferer had passed away before the claim was pursued, witness evidence needed to be obtained from family members as well as from the deceased’s father’s former work colleagues who could helpfully recall the deceased’s father working with asbestos materials during the course of his work, albeit on a small number of occasions.

It can be argued in cases involving secondary exposure that even where only a few instances of exposure have occurred, there will still have been enough exposure to have “materially contribute to the risk” of the sufferer developing mesothelioma, especially if there is no other known source of exposure.

In the pursued case it was shown through supportive medical evidence that even where there was only a small number of corroborated instances of exposure affecting the primary victim, in this case the deceased’s father, providing it could be established that the contaminated work clothes returned home, there was the potential to show that the exposure occurred on a more frequent basis. This is because asbestos dust transported back to the family could gather and build up over time in various places due to it being difficult to clear, therefore resulting in further exposure. The claim was successful with damages being paid to the deceased’s estate. Each case, however, would have to be assessed on its own facts.

At the time of writing, QualitySolicitors Oliver & Co are dealing with another secondary exposure mesothelioma case for a client who was exposed to asbestos from his mother’s work clothes. He would regularly pick her up from work and greet her, at which times it will be alleged he inhaled harmful amounts of asbestos dust, resulting in him being diagnosed with asbestos related mesothelioma during 2011.

Anyone looking to obtain further advice on the potential to claim asbestos related compensation arising out of secondary exposure should not hesitate to contact QualitySolicitors Oliver & Co who specialise in dealing with such claims.