If I was exposed to asbestos through my job, does that increase health risks for my family members?

It is possible to have “secondhand” asbestos exposure, called “paraoccupational exposure.” When a person works with asbestos materials, they can bring home particles on their shoes, clothing, skin and hair. Some evidence shows that family members of people who are heavily exposed to asbestos have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.

To decrease this risk, most jobs that use asbestos materials make sure that the workers change when they arrive and leave work. Most companies also have showers available for employees to clean particles from hair and skin. Trained employees who wear protective clothing launder the contaminated clothing. These precautions lower the risk of family members developing any diseases. If you are exposed to asbestos at work, talk to your healthcare provider about other precautions you and your family can take.

What should I ask my doctor?

If you work in an industry with asbestos, ask your healthcare provider:

  • How can I reduce my risk for asbestos-related illness?
  • Should I have any regular testing or monitoring?
  • Are there medications or other preventive steps to take?
  • How can I protect my family members from asbestos-related illnesses?
  • If I start to feel symptoms, what steps should I take?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos through your job, talk to your healthcare provider. Asbestos can cause several health conditions, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer. You may not have symptoms for decades after exposure. Even if you’re feeling fine, talk to a provider so you can take steps to protect yourself and reduce your health risks. If you do have an asbestos-related condition, your healthcare provider will help you get the treatment you need.

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