Asbestos is a carcinogenic group of mineral fibers that has arguably been used, exploited, and regarded as one of the most controversial natural resources found on this earth. In the past, industrial markets centered their livelihood around asbestos, which has introduced over 3,000 different applications or uses for several centuries. Today, there are still many issues brought up about the use and history of this mineral fiber. Though people can be exposed to asbestos firsthand, there is also such a thing as secondhand asbestos exposure.
Even though asbestos was once widely mined and marketed abroad, time eventually caught up with the dangerous effects that have formed lasting impacts of illness, litigation, and safety-related issues we now have to adhere to because of human exposure to this natural resource. From not only mining the asbestos but breaking the fibers down for so many reasonable uses has ultimately and inherently harmed vast amounts of people either directly or indirectly who have come into contact with the mineral fibers and end up carrying asbestos home.
Carrying Asbestos Home: Secondhand Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos particulates enter the body through inhalation or ingestion through the body from swallowing. Although a higher risk for immediate exposure would typically tend to come from direct exposure from tradespeople such as miners, veterans, construction workers, or firefighters, there are secondhand risk exposures from asbestos fibers that tend to carry over from these contaminated individuals firsthand indirectly. One prime example of secondary exposure would be from the asbestos particles being present on the clothing of individuals who were in contact with free-floating asbestos. Therefore, these people would then be carrying asbestos home and exposing everyone to the risk.
Unofficially, at some time or another, most people will run across some exposure to asbestos, but not everyone will become sick from the exposure. In the same way, people will be likely to bring asbestos home when they are exposed to it outdoors. The likelihood of contracting an illness or experiencing complications from asbestos would naturally come from more consistent contact with the asbestos mineral fibers.
Typically, the most recorded occurrences that coincide with dangerous asbestos exposure comes from inhaling airborne asbestos fibers around an immediate area where those particles or fibers are present. Once those particulates are disturbed, the asbestos particles are then susceptible to being inhaled by surrounding individuals.
Recognizing Different Types of Mesothelioma
In comparison, there are three types of mesothelioma classified as pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial. Pleural mesothelioma can be described as rare cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, which studies show to be the most prevalent form of mesothelioma contraction, recorded in this country, and arguably across the world. These asbestos-particles, once inhaled, are absorbed into the body and settle inside the lining of the lungs.
Peritoneal, is the second most common type which is developed in the lining of the abdomen or stomach through swallowing contaminated water. Peritoneal mesothelioma is rare, and studies have concluded that in order to contract this type of mesothelioma, there has to be a higher per million asbestos-fiber count, in order to be equivalent to the potency of the airborne assisted development of pleural mesothelioma contraction.
The rarest of all is said to be pericardial mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma is classified as a type of mesothelioma. Still, it is rarely discussed because the pericardial version is the only type of mesothelioma that is not exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. Research shows that exposure to asbestos increases the odds of developing pericardial mesothelioma. Still, the symptoms are virtually undetectable before advanced stage classification, due to the identical appearance of heart or cardiac illness.
In turn, pericardial mesothelioma is found, developed, and judged conditionally from tumors that are present inside the pericardium or heart’s lining. First, these tumors develop scar tissue and can develop into onset pericardial mesothelioma from being irritated not only from asbestos exposure but from other causes that would cause this type of mesothelioma, which is the reason this type is different from the other two forms that are generated exclusively from asbestos. In relation, the tumor development from the scar tissue that becomes irritated can ignite the form of pericardial mesothelioma with all of its symptoms and harmful results.
Asbestos Particles Can Be Carried Home
There are also many other ways asbestos particles can be transferred from one area to another. Asbestos fibers can be carried or transported from a primary location to another and become vulnerable to secondhand exposure from contaminated gear, clothing, machinery, and furniture. There are legal cases that involve both secondhand contraction of peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma from individuals who were indirectly exposed to asbestos from asbestos mineral fibers being carried away from the contaminated area into a patient’s environment- this includes exposure from carrying asbestos particles home or away from the contaminated area.
Accordingly, asbestos particles that are carried away from a contaminated area into a clean area are then more than likely to be transferred from one item or fixture to another- secondhand asbestos exposure. Once this occurs, these particles can then be dispersed from clothing into household settings that can settle into carpet, clothing, furniture, and personal items such as blankets, bedding, food, and hygiene products. From then on out, the use or movement of any item that contains asbestos particles gets passed around to anyone or anything nearby.
Physical Contact Can Transfer Asbestos From Contaminated Clothing, Furniture, and Items
As a result, these fibers will become airborne because of physical abrasion or movement, thus creating the likelihood for asbestos to transfer from one place to another, furthering the spread of asbestos. Once these particles become disrupted again, the possibility of them becoming airborne will be inevitable, and then any surrounding occupants will become recipients of secondhand asbestos exposure. Incidents of secondhand asbestos exposure more than likely have been happening for centuries but, only in the past century have these events been notably recorded and proactively sought out to be prevented.
Communities Can Be Exposed To Transferred Asbestos Exposure
In the past, communities were affected due to the primary exposure brought on through secondary asbestos exposure. Ten years ago, a town in Libby, MT, was plagued from a period of over 60 years from consistent regional exposure to asbestos. The local mine near the city was one of the largest vermiculite extraction sites in the nation, but the vermiculite possessed asbestos. Vermiculite is used in some forms of potting soil and several other consumer products.
Over a long period, many workers would carry the remnants of what the world would learn to be asbestos-contaminated vermiculite embedded in their clothing, automobiles, and equipment back to their homes and into the surrounding community. Several cases of mesothelioma started from this disaster of widespread exposure, which would be the leading cause for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) declaration of a public health emergency adjoined with the (DHHS) Department of Health and Human Services.
Asbestos Can Be Airborne For Days Once Disturbed
Generally, emergency service personnel, such as firefighters, here in the United States, are exposed to harmful chemicals and accounts of asbestos contamination consistently. Asbestos is exceptionally fire-resistant and widely known for this quality, which makes the presence of airborne asbestos fibers still prevalent for harmful exposure even after a fire becomes extinguished. In many instances, firefighters and bystanders still think or have believed the threat was gone after the area was neutralized or saturated with water but, studies have shown that the airborne particles can be present for several days.
Over the years, firefighters and emergency personnel have become aware through the studies or information that is readily available now from what society through the medical or scientific community has brought forward about the dangers of asbestos exposure. Even implementing all of the most current and stringent safety measures will not eliminate the risk for secondhand asbestos exposure, especially if the equipment or clothing is not decontaminated or disposed of before leaving or entering another region or area.
Back in time, after a fire was put out, many firefighters would leave the scene to return to either the firehouse or arrive at their home shortly thereafter. If the firefighters did not take preventative measures to remove their clothing and gear before entering the living quarters of either the ‘station’ or one’s home, then they would carry airborne asbestos particles with them, which would be subject to becoming harmfully available to being secondarily exposed to asbestos.
In turn, there are precautionary measures in practice to prevent the harmful onsite or work area exposure of asbestos. Still, sometimes when people leave a job site, they may ‘carry their work home with them,’ and at times, it may be asbestos fibers or particulates.
Take Precautionary And Preventative Measures Before Going Home
Today high-risk areas or known concentrations of an asbestos ridden site that area can be contained by adhering to preventative measures and decontamination practices. Due to errors and occurrences of the past, authorities now implement and enforce decontamination or safety measures to be performed onsite before, during, and after an area is or suspected to be contaminated with asbestos.
OSHA Guidelines And Tips For The Workplace
To help prevent the spread of harmful asbestos exposure, OSHA has mapped out guidelines that particularly identify four elements which coincide with most all successful safety and health management programs for the workplace. The four general elements identify management commitment and employee involvement; worksite analysis; hazard prevention and control; and safety and health training.
Employers and employees alike are always encouraged to utilize this site for information regarding training opportunities, references and guidelines to help implement a successful safety and health initiative. Failures to act with no regard to the worker or environmental safety can result in reprimands or punishment by regulatory agencies.
Failure To Follow Regulatory Guidelines Can Result In Fines
For example, back in 2015, an environmental services company was found by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to have harmfully and negligently transferred asbestos-contaminated clothing and gear worn by their employees from a worksite into the surrounding environment. The services company itself specialized in environmental services such as insulation, lead abatement, and asbestos abatement services.
According to OSHA, the company was reprimanded for failing to instruct the employees to remove asbestos-contaminated insulation properly, decontaminated their gear or clothing before leaving the worksite, and letting the employees carry out harmful asbestos particles on their clothes from the worksite. The Pennsylvania company failed to adhere to regulations at the worksite in regards to preventing the toxic firsthand exposure of asbestos and decontamination of its work-gear after daily site duties performed. In turn, OSHA fined the environmental services company around $490,000.
Clean Or Dispose Of Contaminated Clothing
When clothing is not adequately cleaned, contained, or disposed of when leaving a worksite, then asbestos fibers are liable to travel with the person to their home. Upon arrival, family members and friends then become vulnerable to secondhand exposure to asbestos, which is no less harmful than firsthand exposure at any one particular time. In effect, research has shown that lung cancer and mesothelioma can be the result of secondhand asbestos exposure. In all, precautions need to be taken to minimize any asbestos fibers from being transferred into homes or a clean environment.
Take Extra Precautions Before Entering Your Home
Remember, any loose asbestos fibers can become airborne and subject to come into secondary human contact once jostled from contaminated clothing. Taking measures and limiting certain activities can reduce or eliminate the risk of secondhand asbestos exposure. One way is to minimize physical contact when someone arrives at their home. Simple actions such as a hug, sitting on furniture, and shaking out possibly contaminated clothing will result in anyone near the immediate area to be subject to harmful asbestos exposure.
Clothing that is not properly decontaminated or disposed of from the job site should be either professionally cleaned or removed upon consideration for safety to help eliminate the chance of secondhand exposure. Also, workers should promptly remove the potentially contaminated clothing in a separate area away from others. Besides, removing boots and socks before you step into your home will also curtail embedded particles from being moved throughout the house.
Anyone, covered in dust or dirt that has not washed off before leaving work should do so before lounging, sitting, or traversing through a living area. Taking precautionary actions and limiting the start of individual physical activities before anyone enters their home or a residential environment should help to reduce if not eliminate the spread of secondary asbestos particulates.
Anyone Can Be Vulnerable to Asbestos Exposure
Inevitably, everyone can become vulnerable to asbestos exposure even from the indirect actions of others. Workers in high-risk occupations can typically be around asbestos for years, ultimately, with no decontamination or cleansing procedures practiced once they left the job site. Those individuals unknowingly took their work home with them, which often contained harmful asbestos particles. Years later, the side effects of asbestos exposure are possible no matter who, what, why, when, and even where it came from.
Do Not Ignore The Signs Or Symptoms Of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is an extremely dormant cancer and is widely known to take decades to develop. If you or a loved one are suffering from symptoms of mesothelioma and believe you were vulnerable to harmful asbestos exposure either firsthand or secondhand, please do not hesitate to contact an experienced asbestos attorney.