Laundering Asbestos-Laden ClothingHome exposure to asbestos occurs as an indirect result of working with or around asbestos materials. Prior to the late 1970s asbestos was incorporated into numerous products used in manufacturing and construction industries. Asbestos dust and fibers typically entered the home as a result of a household member working with or around asbestos materials. Asbestos fibers can also enter a home as a result of residential demolition work or remodeling. Because asbestos is an aerodynamic mineral that is practically indestructible, the fibers can permeate every location of the home, including rugs, curtains, clothing, and bedding. If not properly cleaned up, asbestos fibers can remain in these locations for years. When asbestos dust and fibers enter the home, they can easily be released, or re-entrained, into the air when disturbed. Asbestos can cause mesothelioma or lung cancer to develop years after initial exposure to asbestos dust and fibers.

Since the 1930s, industrial hygiene authorities have been well aware that the release of asbestos fibers from asbestos-containing materials could pose serious health problems to workers who were exposed to it. It has also been known since the early 20th Century that a cautious work practice to insure worker safety and health was to restrict exposures to toxic and harmful substances to the workplace where they could be controlled. In 1913, Tolman and Kendall published their manual on methods for preventing occupational accidents and disease and emphasized “The ordinary or street-clothes should be taken off and replaced by special suits to be worn during working hours. It is not sufficient for a working-suit, jacket or apron to be put on over the ordinary clothing. The working-suit should be taken off before the midday meal and before leaving the factory and exchanged for street clothes…By removing the working-clothes before meals and before leaving the factory the poison is not carried into lunchrooms or into the homes of workers.”1

Because asbestos fibers are extremely small and light, re-entrainment of asbestos dust can vary from low to high airborne concentrations. In some circumstances, asbestos exposure occurring among household members may approach occupational levels. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Report to Congress on Worker’s Home Contamination Study under The Workers’ Family Protection Act (29 U.S.C. 671a) concluded that “…families of asbestos-exposed workers have been at increased risk of pleural, pericardial, or peritoneal mesothelioma, lung cancer, cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, and non-malignant pleural and parenchylmal abnormalities as well as asbestosis.”2  

The scientific and medical communities have yet to determine a level of exposure to asbestos below which mesothelioma does not occur. Very low levels of exposure to asbestos have been known to cause mesothelioma. Even the relatively slight exposure involved in shaking out work clothes before doing laundry is enough to cause mesothelioma to develop years after initial exposure. Children of exposed workers may also contract mesothelioma as a result of asbestos contamination originating from the workplace. Women and children were typically exposed to asbestos brought home on a loved one and when they laundered their clothing. Asbestos has no warning qualities; members of a household could have substantial exposure to asbestos without knowing they have been exposed.

The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have represented many individuals who have developed mesothelioma or lung cancer as a result of household exposure to asbestos. if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.

1. Tolman, W.H. and Kendall, L.B., SAFTEY, Methods for Preventing Occupational and Other Accidents and Disease; Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York & London (1913) at pp. 248-49.

2. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Report to Congress on Workers’ Home Contamination Study.