The single biggest factor contributing to a person contracting mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos describes a group of naturally occurring mineral fibers that, when inhaled and ingested, can become lodged in the tissues of the linings of organs, including the lungs and digestive system. Over time, these lodged fibers can cause inflammation and cellular damage, which may eventually lead to mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, asbestos and products containing asbestos were commonly used throughout many different industries during the last 100 years. Many workers in these industries were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. Any person who has inhaled or ingested the toxic mineral of asbestos may develop the disease, even if it has come through indirect or secondary exposure.
Workers from a wide range of occupations have inhaled or ingested asbestos and have contracted mesothelioma as a result, including United States Navy veterans, plant workers, construction workers, insulators, mechanics, electricians, pipefitters, plumbers and many others. In addition, people who used building materials at home — such as drywall, insulation, cements, shingles and tiles — may have been exposed to asbestos.
Direct exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma.
There are also many people, however, who contracted mesothelioma through secondary exposure to asbestos. These people, including some children, usually inhaled asbestos fibers that were brought home on the hair and clothes of other family members. While many of these individuals did not have any direct contact with products containing asbestos, the asbestos dust carried home by a family member was enough to cause mesothelioma.
For more information about mesothelioma risk factors, contact an attorney at the San Francisco/Bay Area office of Kaiser Gornick LLP.