Secondary exposure to asbestos has been proven to occur in countless number of cases and where sufficient evidence can be given by the third party concerned. However, occasions have arisen where a challenge has been made to the evidence provided for establishing secondary exposure within an ongoing mesothelioma compensation case

It is has been established that up until the late 1970s, a period of peak manufacture and working with asbestos products in key industrial, engineering and shipbuilding regions around the UK, it was often the practice that employees would bring their work clothes home to be washed and ironed by their spouses or a member of the family. Almost invariably, the fabric of the clothing would be ingrained with asbestos dust containing the deadly fibres. In addition, it was common for the asbestos fibre dust to be found in the hair and on work boots.

The all too common lack of asbestos awareness to the dangers confronting both themselves and others who came into secondary contact was widespread throughout the workforce employed in major asbestos using industries and mostly refuted by company employers. It would not be until some 15 – 50 years later, when the first asbestosis symptoms appear that either the original exposed worker or the secondary exposed family member would be diagnosed with mesothelioma.

It can be notoriously difficult for a former employer or their insurance company to be still in business, traced or even admit original liability for the employee’s eventual confirmed asbestosis or an asbestos-related disease. It is hardly surprising that a mesothelioma claim for secondary exposure would be subject to a robust defence, given that very little material evidence beyond a verbal account is invariably, all that can be produced.

Proof of a secondary exposure as a primary cause of a patient’s current asbestos-related disease is also being contested on the grounds of when the original exposure occurred, the “ foreseeable” harmful effects had not yet been identified. This means that during the time period in question and with the prevailing and available medical or scientific knowledge, could the employer be able to “exercise reasonable care against foreseeable harm to others?”

Notwithstanding, the often deliberate refusal by employers “at the time” to acknowledge any harmful affects likely to occur from working with asbestos, it has been put forward that it is not the duty of an employer or business premises owner to award damages to a third party, especially if the harmful effects of exposure were not “foreseeable”.

Individuals or their family members who wish to claim secondary exposure would need to seek a specialist asbestosis lawyer who can give the necessary informed advice based on individual employment and medical history.