What is Bystander Asbestos Exposure and Who is at Risk?

Bystander Asbestos Exposure

What is Bystander Asbestos Exposure and Who is at Risk?

The most common source of exposure to asbestos is direct exposure to the actual mineral or asbestos-containing material. Direct exposure occurs most frequently in the workplace. However, it can also happen when working with asbestos-containing products in the home. Long latency periods (10-40 years) prevented most workers exposed to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s from manifesting asbestos-associated diseases until the last 15 to 20 years. At the same time, spouse and family members of exposed workers are also exhibiting asbestos-associated conditions due to their indirect or “bystander” exposure to asbestos.

The health hazards of asbestos

Asbestos is a silicate fibrous mineral that naturally forms in the earth and was mined and used in building materials ranging from bricks to insulation products.

has Asbestos fibers are nearly invisible to the naked eye, sharp, and easily inhaled or ingested. Since these asbestos fibers are like tiny needles, they bore into soft tissues inside the body. Over time, asbestos fibers become embedded further into the tissue which can cause irritation, fibrosis (scarring), and tumor development. The most common cancers associated with asbestos are lung cancer, mesothelioma, throat cancer, and colon cancer.   

Bystander Asbestos Exposure – Secondary Exposure

  • Secondary exposure occurs when people who do not work directly with asbestos are exposed to fibers as a result of being near a workspace where others handle asbestos or asbestos materials. For example, plumbers who worked in shipyards were exposed because asbestos was used to coat the ships’ pipes and hulls.

Neighborhood or Community Exposure

  • People living around building demolition sites, power plants, refineries, shipyards, steel mills, factories handling asbestos, and asbestos mines, have also been exposed to asbestos through due to their close proximity to asbestos-using industries.

“Take-home Exposure”

  • In the past, asbestos workers wore their work clothes home covered in asbestos dust because they were not warned about asbestos dangers and taught to follow industrial hygiene practices. The workers’ families were then exposed via inhalation of asbestos dust:
    • From workers’ skin, hair, clothing and work tools
    • During the laundering of contaminated work clothes
  • Any form of asbestos exposure can cause asbestos-caused illnesses such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, colon cancer, throat cancer, and asbestosis.

At Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., we understand the devastating effects bystander asbestos exposure can have on loved ones and are dedicated to helping workers injured by asbestos protect their rights and those of their families. GPW’s combination of evidence, experience, and expertise culminate in the aggressive representation of our clients. Contact us today for a free case review.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (July 22, 2020). [link]
Int J Environ Res Public Health, “Domestic Asbestos Exposure: A Review of Epidemiologic and Exposure Data” (November, 2013). [link]

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