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Family members unwittingly put at risk from asbestos exposure
An industrial disease expert has warned how family members of workers might have been unwittingly exposed to deadly asbestos by their loved ones decades ago.
Bridget Collier, head of the Industrial Disease team at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the recent case of a woman in her 70s who died from mesothelioma had highlighted how asbestos dust represented a danger not just to those who worked in heavy industry, but also to their wives and children.
“Only last month a coroner recorded a verdict of death by industrial disease after a 78-year-old woman succumbed to mesothelioma,” said Bridget (left), a partner with the firm. “The court heard how the woman had breathed in asbestos fibres as she shook out the work clothes of her husband and son, who worked at a power station.
“Whilst a tragic case in itself, it has served as a stark warning that entire families might be unaware that they have been exposed to asbestos.”
Bridget, who for many years has seen first-hand the devastating effects mesothelioma has on victims and their relatives, said that although the number of mesothelioma cases reported in the UK continued to increase, there was a concern that some were still being overlooked because people simply did not realise they had been exposed to asbestos.
“Mesothelioma is a dreadful, cruel and painful disease, and kills one person every five hours in the UK,” she said. “This tragic case is just the latest where the victim was not directly exposed through her own work, but instead from washing dirty clothes and cleaning up after her family members.
“We have encountered a large number of cases like this one, where a diagnosis of mesothelioma has been met with complete surprise because the victims themselves never worked in one of the industries readily associated with the disease – such as mining, ship-building, construction, plumbing and electrical work,” she said. “However once we learn more about the history of the victim, the root of the exposure becomes clear.”
Bridget said she had heard stories of wives beating their husband’s dusty overalls as they hung on a washing line, or shaking them off in a doorway before putting them in a washing machine.
“Children and even grandchildren have also been put at risk, running up to a returning parent to give them a hug as they return from work, or sitting on their knee as they wear their dusty work clothes,” she said. “The risk of loved ones being accidentally exposed is unfortunate and just adds to the tragic legacy of asbestos. But as this latest case shows, it is something that family members need to be made aware of.”
She advised anyone who begins to suffer from symptoms - such as a cough that will not go away, or developing breathlessness when doing something that would ordinarily not have caused such a problem - to see their doctor.
“It can take between 15 and 60 years after being exposed to asbestos before any related disease becomes apparent,” said Bridget. “Many people who are diagnosed often came into contact with asbestos several years ago and didn’t even realise, so it is vitally important to be vigilant now.”
How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of industrial diseases including mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.
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