In September 1995, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was directed by The Workers’ Family Protection Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-522, 29 U.S.C. 671a) to study contamination of workers’ homes by toxic and hazardous substances transported from the workplace. This published report provides a summary of different types of home contamination, including asbestos, lead paint, mercury and beryllium; a survey of reported health effects from these contaminates; information on sources and levels of contamination; information on prevention and decontamination; a summary of relevant federal and state laws; and a summary of responses by federal and state agencies.

This report is significant to asbestos home exposure cases as it chronicles the history of take-home exposures and associated health risks worldwide, which took place mostly in the 20th century. This report describes accounts of hazardous asbestos take-home exposures and subsequent illnesses diagnosed among family members of the workers who were documented.

The cases reviewed in this report include families of asbestos-exposed workers. Because of their non-occupational asbestos exposure, these individuals have been at increased risk of pleural, pericardial, or peritoneal mesothelioma, lung cancer, cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, and non-malignant pleural and parenchymal abnormalities as well as asbestosis.

Below are excerpts from the NIOSH report with regard to asbestos exposure. To view the report in its entirety, see Health Effects of Workers’ Home Contamination.

Excerpts from Review of Studies1

“The occupations associated with asbestos-related disease in family members are those where workers were exposed to asbestos dust during: construction and renovation; prospecting and mining; manufacturing textiles, tiles, boilers, and ovens; shipbuilding and associated trades; certain railroad shop trades; welding; insulation; use and manufacture of asbestos products such as cords, seals, and plates; and renovation and demolition projects within the construction industry.” (pg. 6)

“Most cases of asbestos disease among workers’ family members occurred in households where information indicated that asbestos-contaminated work clothing was brought into the home and women were exposed during home laundering of the contaminated work clothing [Ashcroft and Heppleston 1970; Dalquen et al. 1970; Edge and Choudhury 1978; Lander and Wiskum 1985; Konetzke et al. 1990]. Children were exposed by playing in areas where asbestos-contaminated shoes and work clothes were located, or where products containing asbestos were used or stored.” (pg. 7)

“Three review articles discuss the adverse effects in family members of asbestos workers and the bases for inferring that these adverse health effects result from transporting contaminated clothing and other articles into the home. Grandjean and Bach [1986] reviewed the literature on effects of asbestos exposure on workplace bystanders and family members and Rom and Lokey [1982] and Berry [1986] reviewed the association between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.” (pg. 8)

“The Mount Sinai investigators [Anderson 1983; Anderson et al. 1976, 1979a, 1979b; Joubert et al. 1991; Nicholson 1983; Nicholson et al. 1980] studied morbidity and mortality among a cohort of household contacts of amosite asbestos workers employed in a New Jersey asbestos insulation materials factory between 1941 and 1945. Occupational, residential, smoking, and medical histories were obtained from the exposed cohort. Radiographs were taken 20 or more years after first exposure. Results for radiographic analysis were compared with a control group of similar age and gender from the same urban community. A statistically significant increased frequency of asbestos-associated radiographic abnormalities was observed among household contacts of asbestos workers.

…The Mt. Sinai investigators also examined mesothelioma and lung cancer mortality for vital status follow-up through 1980. There were 3 mesothelioma deaths among 663 observed deaths for this cohort.” (pg. 8)

“A retrospective cohort mortality study of 1,964 wives of asbestos cement workers in Italy was conducted by Magnani et al. [1993]. The wives had no significant history of occupational exposure…..The women who died from respiratory disease had washed their husband’s work clothes in the home for more than 10 years.” (pg. 9)

“Epler et al. [1980] reported on two brothers who developed pleural changes as young adults. As children, they played in a room that was used as an automobile muffler repair shop. Magee et al. [1986] reported on a case of mesothelioma in a 41-year-old male with no occupational exposure. He was exposed as a child in Corsica to tremolite asbestos in a room in his home that was used as a local bar. The patrons of this bar were miners at the Canari asbestos mine and came into the bar in their dusty work clothes. As a child, this man had used asbestos ore from the mine to filter wine. Li et al. [1989] reported on a family of four in which the father worked in an asbestos products plant. The father brought home cotton cloth sacks in which molded asbestos insulation had been transported. The mother cut the sacks into diapers for her children. The mother and one daughter died of mesothelioma. The father died of asbestosis. A young uncle who lived in the home and worked briefly in an asbestos-exposed job also died of mesothelioma. Otte et al. [1990] studied a family who produced asbestos cement in their homes. The mother, father and one son died of mesothelioma. “(pg. 11)

“Asbestos sheets brought home from work were used in a cottage industry to repair burned out mufflers [Epler et al. 1980]. The asbestos sheets were stored in the basement where the children played and were also used to construct a tree house in which the children played. Both children developed asbestos-related lung disease at about age 30.” (pg.  46)

“Although poisoning of asbestos worker’s families has been known since the report by Newhouse and Thompson [1965], and has been repeatedly associated with laundering contaminated clothing, no information exists on effectiveness of preventive measures. Belanger et al. [1979] recognized the hazard in evaluation of a factory where asbestos was used in the manufacture of floor coverings. They specifically recommended that work clothes not be taken home because this could expose others at home.” (pg . 55)

There were no studies on the effectiveness of any methods for removal of asbestos from clothing contaminated in the workplace. One study conducted on dry cleaning a coat which contained 8% asbestos in its fabric, indicated that some of the loose fibers were removed [NIOSH 1971]. “(pg. 63)

1. Health Effects of Workers’ Home Contamination: