While mesothelioma affects men much more than women, it has nothing to do with genetics. The only known link to mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, and men simply worked around asbestos at a much higher rate than women did in decades past.
However, about 8 percent of mesothelioma cases each year are in women, many of whom did not work in fields that involved exposure to asbestos. Instead, many of those cases occur because of what is known as “secondary exposure.”
Asbestos particles can become airborne
In the past, when men would work in mines, shipyards, factories or other settings that involved exposure to asbestos, the air would be filled with particles, which would stick to their hair, clothes and skin. Those men would then come home to their families without changing or showering first.
Because of this, women and children in the home would unknowingly inhale asbestos by:
- Shaking out the clothes when doing laundry
- Giving a hug to the exposed worker
- Sitting in the lap or wrestling with the exposed worker
Another form of secondary exposure could be from living in the vicinity of a worksite where asbestos usage was common.
Over time, this secondary exposure could prove just as dangerous as working in a factory manufacturing products that contained asbestos.
Companies are liable for secondary exposure as well
As mesothelioma reared its ugly head in workers and some family members decades after the exposure, companies often tried to argue that they owed nothing to those family members. However, judges continue to rule that companies who knew the dangers that asbestos posed and continued to utilize the mineral anyway are liable for any illnesses caused by that exposure, even to workers’ family members.