Secondhand Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos minerals are composed of durable fibers that are resistant to fire and many chemicals. Because of its durability, builders began incorporating asbestos into insulation and other construction materials in the 1800s

But asbestos soon proved too good to be true. If asbestos fibers become airborne and are inhaled, they can cause significant health problems, including:

  • Asbestosis — a lung disease first found in naval shipyard workers. As asbestos fibers are inhaled, they may become trapped in the lung tissue eventually causing scarring which can harm proper lung function; and
  • Mesothelioma — a cancer of the outer lining of the lung and chest as well as the abdominal wall. This form of cancer is only caused by exposure to asbestos.

How Would I Be Exposed to Asbestos Secondhand?

Direct exposure to asbestos is not the only concern. People who experience secondhand asbestos exposure can also become ill. How does this happen? Think of it like exposure to secondhand smoke — nonsmokers who are around smokers breathe in the same chemicals and may be in danger of developing lung cancer. Similarly, someone who is around a person who has been exposed to asbestos might breathe in those same particles.

The clearest example of secondhand exposure is a wife, mother, daughter or another family member handling the clothes of someone who has been exposed to asbestos.

In November 2016, a Donaldsonville woman filed a lawsuit against Huntington Ingalls Industries, a military shipbuilding company that owns the shipyard where her father used to work. She claims that that he was exposed to asbestos during the course of his employment and that she, in turn, was also exposed to asbestos by coming into contact with his clothes. Both father and daughter developed mesothelioma.

Myra Williams developed mesothelioma after washing her husband’s clothes. Her husband, Jimmy Williams was exposed to asbestos at his job at Placid Oil Co. The asbestos fibers were on his clothes, which Myra handled for years. She died, and her family sued. In May 2016 a Louisiana trial judge awarded $7 million to Myra’s surviving family members.

Another woman recently filed a lawsuit in New Orleans against multiple companies she claims exposed her husband to asbestos during his employment. She argues that the companies failed to provide him with proper safety equipment and to warn employees that their family members could also be exposed to asbestos. She, like the other two women, claims she inhaled asbestos fibers while handling her husband’s work clothes. She also developed mesothelioma.

Is Asbestos Even Legal?

While the federal government has banned certain forms of asbestos — for example, it cannot be used in products that have not traditionally contained asbestos — it has not been banned in all instances. It is still commonly used in roofing materials, gaskets and other consumer products.

Louisiana law also permits the use of asbestos in certain products. However, asbestos use is strictly regulated.

Contact Us Today

If you are exposed to asbestos at work, or if you experience secondhand asbestos exposure, you might be at risk of developing mesothelioma. Contact the Patrick Yancey Law Firm today for an initial consultation about your case.