The family of a second hand asbestos exposure victim in Washington State has been awarded $3.5 million. Though the award was later reduced to $2.5 million, it is still the largest sum in state history to be awarded based on secondary exposure. The family involved in the case are the children of a woman who died from mesothelioma.
The woman’s husband, a refinery worker, died from asbestosis and complications from several other ailments. Months later, she died of mesothelioma. The woman’s daughter told The Seattle Times that she watched her mother shake “chunks of dusty debris” from her father’s clothes when he arrived home from work. Afterwards, “she would wash his clothes and sweep up the laundry room.”
Family members also said that the refinery had just four showers for 200 employees. This created hours long wait times for workers to clean asbestos dust from their bodies at the end of their shift. Many workers could not afford to wait. The refinery did not have a laundry service either, said the family, so employees had to take their asbestos-laden clothes home to wash.
Just four months after she began complaining of exhaustion and other symptoms, the woman, was diagnosed with mesothelioma and doctors gave her one year to live. At the age of 80, she died just one day before her lawyers presented closing arguments in her lawsuit against an insulation company.
The family continued the suit and named several other companies in the claim. This included companies that manufactured, distributed, or sold products that contained asbestos. The defendants were accused of negligence, conspiracy, and willful or wanton misconduct and product liability.
Most people believe that exposure to asbestos only occurs when people come in direct contact with it at work. This is not always the case. Exposure can occur in the community, in the home, schools, and other structures, and yes, through second hand exposure.
There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. In fact, per the National Cancer Institute (NCI), investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals with only brief exposures. This means, “family members of workers heavily exposed to asbestos face an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.” The risk results from “exposure to asbestos fibers brought into the home on the shoes, clothing, skin, and hair of workers.”
Though current Federal law regulates workplace practices to limit the possibility of asbestos being brought home in this way, these regulations were not in place decades ago when asbestos use was at its peak. Even worse is, it could take 40, even 50 years for symptoms of asbestos-related disease to develop. This means, if exposure occurred in the 1970s, symptoms could appear today or 10 years from now.
Don’t wait. If you have been exposed to asbestos at any point in your life, please see your doctor right away.
"Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk." National Cancer Institute (NCI). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH), n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
"Protecting Workers from Asbestos." EPA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 21 Dec. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Sullivan, Jennifer. "Jury Awards $3.5M in 'take-home' Asbestos Case." The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times Company, 27 Apr. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
"U.S. Federal Bans on Asbestos." EPA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 19 Dec. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.