Bringing Asbestos Home: The Dangers of Secondary Asbestos Exposure
In the Bible story, God mercifully allows Abraham to spare the life of his son Isaac. But secondary asbestos exposure is not merciful. Asbestos fibers accidentally brought into the home by industrial worker Johney Clemmons caused the death of his son Randy Brady Clemmons. Sadly, Johney Clemmons himself died from the asbestos fibers choking his lungs decades before his son also succumbed to illness from secondary asbestos exposure.
The premature deaths of both father and son separated by time but united in cause and tragedy both became cases I handled at Kazan Law for the Clemmons family in turn. The recent publication of a new book by Debbie Clemmons, wife of Randy, about coping with his mesothelioma prompted me to want to discuss with you the dangers of secondary as well as primary asbestos exposure.
Johney Joseph Clemmons, had spent 30 years working at the Fibreboard Corporation’s Emeryville, California asbestos insulation manufacturing plant. Johney began to get sick in the early 1970s, and by 1975 had severe pulmonary asbestosis, a scarring of the lungs caused by asbestos fibers that restricted the lungs’ ability to provide enough oxygen to the body. He continued to work until 1977 when he could no longer manage, and at age 57 was forced to retire. Several years later, he developed lung cancer on top of his asbestosis and passed away on December 7, 1981.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States, an estimated 27 million workers were exposed to aerosolized asbestos fibers between 1940 and 1979.
Because of a lack of proper industrial hygiene, asbestos workers went home covered in asbestos dust. The workers’ families and other household contacts were then exposed via inhalation of asbestos dust
- from workers’ skin, hair, and clothing, and
- during laundering of contaminated work clothes.
A mortality study of 878 household members of asbestos workers revealed that 4 out of 115 total deaths were from pleural mesothelioma and that the rate of deaths from all types of cancer was doubled.
Randy was 26 years old when his father died as a result of asbestos exposure in 1981. Randy died in 2009 at age 54 as a result of secondary asbestos exposure unknowingly brought home by his father.