While most cases of mesothelioma affect individuals who were directly exposed to asbestos in the workplace, men who worked around asbestos, and brought the fibers home on their clothing, shoes and in their hair, may have inadvertently exposed their children and spouses to the hazards of the deadly toxin. One family in England is now dealing with this phenomenon as eight siblings, whose only exposure came from contact with the fibers that adhered their father who worked with asbestos products, battle mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is proven to cause lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma, a serious cancer caused by breathing in the asbestos fibers that then become lodged in the thin membrane that lines and encases the lungs, and other respiratory diseases. Even small amounts of asbestos and infrequent exposure can create a risk for contracting mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
According to the Yorkshire Post, two sisters in the family just died of mesothelioma caused by secondhand exposure they had to asbestos decades ago. The other siblings suffer from pleural plaques, emphysema and scarred lungs. They are also still at risk of developing mesothelioma. Their father worked at Cape Asbestos in Hebben Bridge, Yorkshire from the 1930’s through 1958. He died of lung cancer 10 years after leaving the company.
The family recalled that they would play with their father when he returned home from work with his clothes still covered in asbestos dust. “I remember my mother shaking his overalls and dust going everywhere,” said one sibling. She added that as children they would sometimes accompany their father to work on Sunday and would play in the piles of asbestos dust.
Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed 30 years or more after exposure. Currently there is no known cure for mesothelioma, and the average survival time varies from 4 – 18 months after diagnosis. According to Professor Julian Peto, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Institute of Cancer Research, the UK now has the highest death rate in the world from mesothelioma, with over 2,000 deaths a year.