The health risks associated with exposure to toxic asbestos fibers are widespread. Every year 3,000 Americans die from mesothelioma, an incurable cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the heart, lung, and stomach. Thousands of others who come into contact with asbestos eventually develop lung cancer or asbestosis.
Illinois Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have long helped to provide compensation for victims of serious asbestos-related diseases whose lives have been forever changed by asbestos exposure. Some of these victims did not work directly with asbestos, but had secondhand contact with someone who worked in an industry where asbestos was present. However, even indirect asbestos exposure can be fatal. Asbestos fibers attach to a worker’s clothes, shoes, or hair putting everyone in the worker’s home at risk. Hugging a worker who handles asbestos products or washing the worker’s clothes can release asbestos into the air and lead to a life-threatening, asbestos-related illness.
An ongoing lawsuit in the Illinois Supreme Court highlights the dangers of secondhand asbestos exposure and places a responsibility on employers to warn family members of employees. As the Madison Record reports, Annette Simpkins filed a mesothelioma lawsuit in 2007 against her husband’s employer. Simpkins contracted the disease after washing clothes that her husband brought home from B& O Railroad, where he worked as a steelworker, welder, and railroad fireman. The aggressive cancer killed Simpkins shortly after she filed suit, and her daughter carried on the case. In an unprecedented ruling, the Fifth Circuit ruled that an employer does have a duty to protect family members of workers who are exposed to asbestos. The court reasoned that exposure is both foreseeable and preventable.
It is likely that an employee who works with asbestos products will bring his clothes home and expose his family to the toxic fibers. But simple steps can reduce the risk of exposure, such as providing safety instructions, substituting other products, and requiring that employees take hygienic safety steps. This Illinois Mesothelioma case shows that employers who do not take reasonable steps to provide a safe environment for the family members of their employees will be held accountable. Family members have the right to be compensated for medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of income that results from an asbestos-related disease.
Other courts around the nation have similarly held employers responsible for “take-home” asbestos-related exposure. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in favor of a woman who died from mesothelioma after she was exposed to asbestos fibers from her father’s clothing during childhood. The New Jersey Supreme Court also sided with a woman who contacted mesothelioma from asbestos fibers on her husband’s clothing.
The dangers of secondhand asbestos-exposure cannot be underestimated. Our experienced Mesothelioma attorneys know that indirect exposure to poisonous asbestos fibers can be just as hazardous as direct exposure. Anyone who comes into contact with asbestos dust from a worker’s clothing, skin, or other personal items is at risk for mesothelioma, asbestosis, or other serious asbestos-related diseases.
Although early detection can lessen the effects of take-home asbestos exposure, mesothelioma symptoms can take anywhere from 25 to 50 years to develop. It is possible that family members have already been exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos but have not yet experienced the painful effects. Negligent businesses that expose family members of employees to toxic chemicals like asbestos should be held accountable. Many companies failed to take proper safety procedures and as such, were forced to pay millions of dollars in medical bills and settlements.