For decades, scientists and public health experts have been passionate about a definitive link existing between asbestos exposure and several potentially fatal illnesses – and with good reason. The evidence suggesting that asbestos can cause asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer and other malignant diseases is irrefutable. For this reason, the medical community has shown great concern for individuals likely to come into contact with the toxic material on the job.
However, these employees are not the only ones at risk. At Kazan Law, we see too many stories about how the loved ones of these individuals are also in danger of asbestos exposure because of the workers’ tainted clothing. In Wales, one family discussed how their matriarch died from mesothelioma after washing the work clothes of her husband and son, as reported by Wales Online.
‘He lost a lot of colleagues and friends’
In 2011, Valerie Ward died at the Holm Towers hospice a mere 10 weeks after she had been diagnosed with mesothelioma. She was 78.
The inquest into her death concluded that her disease was the result of exposure to asbestos that likely occurred when she did the laundry, which included the work clothes of her husband Eric and son Adrian, both of whom were employed at a power station.
After winning compensation in civil court, Ward’s family decided to donate the money to Marie Curie, the cancer care network of which the Holm Towers is a part.
“My dad worked at the power station for 20 odd years and was a fitters mate before he became a painter there,” daughter Averil told the news source. “He lost a lot of colleagues and friends to mesothelioma – not a lot was known about it then and very little protection was offered at that time. Whatever we were going to get was always going to go to Holm Towers. It’s nice to be able to give something back – they were amazing.”
Today, Eric is living with asbestos plaques in his lungs.
Asbestos is still a working hazard
Although awareness of the risks of asbestos is greater today than it was decades ago, modern-day workers may still be in danger. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that asbestos exposure may be likely among those who handle products such as car brakes and clutches, construction workers who perform renovation or demolition, or maritime employees who work on ships that were built with asbestos. Custodial workers may also encounter the toxic material on the job.
Know how to protect yourself
If you are at risk of asbestos exposure because of your occupation, remember that there are ways to minimize this – and your employer is required to help. OSHA lists the permissible exposure limit of asbestos in the workplace as 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter – averaged over eight hours – or, in the short term, 1 fiber per cubic centimeter over 30 minutes.
Employers must monitor these risks and provide protective clothing, including coveralls, face shields and vented goggles. They are also responsible for training workers on asbestos awareness.
Health and Safety Executive, a government watchdog group in the UK, has additional safety tips for tradespeople. Among them are recommendations to clean up throughout the day to prevent the accumulation of waste, wash before taking breaks or going home, and use Type H vacuum cleaners or wet rags – instead of sweeping – to clean dust.
Additionally, employees need to refrain from eating or drinking in the middle of a work site, or bringing work clothes home.