A woman who worked from 1993 to 2009 as a waitress, clerk and customer service representative at various locations has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, despite the fact that none of her occupations are among those which traditionally put workers at risk for this asbestos cancer. Instead, she believes that she contracted the disease secondarily, since her grandfather did hold a high-risk job: that of custodian.
Cheryl Holt thinks that she was exposed to asbestos fibers from her grandfather, Franklin Short, who worked for the ironically named Healthy School System from 1967 until 1984. Short would have been exposed to asbestos fibers on a daily basis during his work as a custodian, because asbestos was widely used as an insulating material on pipes, boilers, furnaces, electrical wiring, ceiling and flooring tiles, and in many other locations within schools. Since asbestos fibers, which are microscopic, can comprise a dust that clings easily to fabric, hair and other items, they can easily be transported from the original site to other locations. Handling coveralls or clothing that are contaminated with asbestos fibers, or even just coming into close contact with someone who has recently worked around asbestos(as might occur when a little girl hugged her grandfather) can lead to secondhand exposure and eventual diagnosis of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.
Holt has filed a complaint in Madison County (WI) Circuit Court, seeking damages related to her mesothelioma. This unusual cancer (it strikes fewer than 3,000 annually in the United States) is particularly resistant to treatment methods such as radiation and chemotherapy, and is usually not operable. The prognosis is grim, with an average life expectancy of only six to 18 months, and many patients die within a much shorter time.
Regulations concerning the use of asbestos in new construction have been in place since the 1980s, but the material is not entirely banned and it may remain in existing structures, including schools, factories, retail buildings, and homes.