Who's at Risk of Mesothelioma From Asbestos Exposure?

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Exposure to asbestos is the single largest risk factor for mesothelioma. This aggressive cancer affects the mesothelium, a protective membrane covering most of the internal organs. Men, women, children, and the elderly should all be aware of how asbestos exposure can affect their health.

Asbestos Exposure in Men

Men have the highest asbestos exposure risk of any demographic group. It is estimated that about 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year—about 75 percent are men.

The vast majority of men diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to the carcinogen at work. Jobs associated with a high risk of asbestos exposure include:

  • Construction workers
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Boiler workers
  • Auto mechanics
  • Power plant workers
  • Chemical plant workers
  • Firefighters
  • Demolition workers

Military service is also known to have placed men at risk. Every branch of the US military used asbestos, although men serving in the Navy from 1935 to 1975 are thought to have been most exposed. It is estimated that about one-third of all mesothelioma cases involve veterans, although some may have also had exposure to asbestos in their post-service employment.

Asbestos Exposure in Women

Although women are statistically less likely to be directly exposed to asbestos, secondhand exposure can cause problems as well. For example:

  • Laundry. Asbestos fibers easily attach to clothing because of their jagged structure. Women who handle the laundry of husbands, sons, and other family members working near asbestos can suffer significant secondhand exposure in this manner.
  • Furniture. If a worker wearing asbestos-contaminated clothing does not change immediately when returning home, the clothing can contaminate upholstered home furnishings as well as carpeting and bedding.
  • Close physical contact. Hugging, shaking hands, or otherwise remaining in close physical contact with a worker contaminated with asbestos can result in secondhand exposure.

It is estimated the about 25 percent of new mesothelioma cases involve women who experienced secondhand asbestos exposure. Many are being diagnosed at younger ages than their male counterparts, but it is unknown what is causing this discrepancy.

Asbestos Exposure in Children

Children can be exposed to asbestos in many of the same ways as adult women. However, a common additional source of exposure for children is attending schools built from 1950 to 1969, when asbestos materials were extremely common in construction.

Ceiling tiles, wallboard, ductwork, vinyl flooring, pipe wrap insulation, and boiler insulation are just a few of the sources of asbestos exposure in schools. Schools that aren't properly maintained can place students at risk when asbestos dust is released via deteriorated insulation, crumbling floor tiles, or damaged wallboard.

Asbestos-Related Health Problems in the Elderly

The elderly face no specific demographic risks related to asbestos exposure but may suffer problems due to exposure earlier in life. Mesothelioma has long been thought to develop 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure, but newer research suggests the latency period may be even longer. Under this theory, as average lifespans continue to increase, we will see more cases of mesothelioma developing in people who would have previously succumbed to old age or unrelated health problems before being affected by their prior asbestos exposure.

The current life expectancy in the US is around 78 years. From 1999 to 2008, 62 percent of new mesothelioma patients were 70 years or older.

How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help

When your mesothelioma diagnosis can be linked to a specific source of asbestos exposure, you can file a civil claim for damages. This allows you to receive funds for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering to alleviate some of the financial burden associated with this devastating condition.

Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's legal team is dedicated to advocating for the rights of Louisiana residents who've suffered asbestos-related health problems. Our team accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we do not charge for our services until after your claim is settled. The fee for representation is based upon a percentage of your settlement, so there are no upfront costs required for you to get the help you need. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.


Richard J. Arsenault
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Recognized by several legal associations, Richard Arsenault has vast experience in complex litigation cases.