What is secondary asbestos exposure?

You've likely heard the dangers of second-hand cigarette smoke? If you're a baby boomer or older, you can probably recall a time when not many people knew smoking cigarettes was bad for their health. A few decades ago, that news hit the headlines after scientists and health experts confirmed that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer and other illnesses. In fact, you don't even have to be the one who smokes the cigarettes because the specialists also determined that secondary smoke is dangerous, too.

In Pittsburgh and other Pennsylvania regions, there's another silent killer that is dangerous to those exposed to it on a secondary basis: asbestos. You might wonder how one would even come to have an exposure to asbestos second-hand, especially if you've heard that most people who receive asbestos injuries suffer them in the workplace. It is well-known now that secondary exposure is possible, which is why it's critical to know where to turn for support if you or your loved one falls ill.

Did a family member work in one of these places?

If your spouse, parent or another family member used to work in a Pittsburgh coal mine, steel mine, shipyard or factory, anyone living in the household at the time may have been at risk for asbestos injuries. While these locations certainly aren't the places asbestos exists, such jobs are known to be high risks for asbestos-related injuries.

A worker can come home with microscopic particles on his or her clothing, in hair or, even, on skin. If you're around that person, especially on a daily basis, you might breathe in or swallow fibers. Once you've ingested or inhaled them, illness can begin to brew inside your lungs or other body areas. This is what's known as "secondary exposure to asbestos," because you weren't the one directly exposed on the job but, instead, became exposed due to another person's direct exposure.

Traditional lifestyles created risks

Years ago, it was typically men going out to work in Pittsburgh factories, mills and mines. Their wives and children were at risk for secondary exposure to asbestos when they'd shake out laundry or when kids would hug or play with their dads when they got home from work.

Asbestos illnesses usually linger for years before victims realize they are sick. A child who ingested asbestos while playing with his or her father may not experience injury symptoms until he or she is almost or already an adult.

Why support is a key factor

No matter what age you or your loved one are when a doctor diagnoses an asbestos-related illness such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, you'll need help as the disease progresses. Symptoms worsen with time, and treatment is palliative because these diseases are terminal. Family members, friends or hired in-home care providers will likely play key roles as you or your loved one grow less capable of handling the illness alone.

Many asbestos injury victims pursue litigation, especially when employer negligence was a causal factor toward their illnesses. Employers are legally obligated to inform workers of known asbestos dangers on the job and to provide proper training and equipment to help them stay as safe as possible. Those who fail in their duties may be negligent according to a civil court.

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