Secondhand Exposure to Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma Death

A man whose wife died of the rare but aggressive asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma wants to warn others about the dangers of secondhand exposure to the toxin. Trevor Ryder, 65, worked at Norton Abrasives, a Welwyn Garden City, England manufacturing plant from 1963 through 1985. The company made and supplied abrasives for technical manufacturing and commercial applications, household and automotive refinishing solutions. Asbestos was heavily used in the production of these abrasives, and Ryder was unwittingly exposed to it while on the job.
Ryder says he unknowingly brought the asbestos dust home on his clothing. He recalls his wife brushing it off and then hand-washing his clothing; by doing so she was breathing in the carcinogenic dust as well. As a result, Maureen Ryder contracted mesothelioma and died.

Asbestos has been widely used in the manufacturing and construction industries for decades, and is a popular component of industrial and commercial products because it is lightweight, strong, durable, and extremely heat-resistant and fireproof. Although considered relatively safe when it remains intact, if asbestos is disturbed – as it would be during the manufacture of products or removal – it can become “friable.” This simply means that it is prone to releasing its millions of microscopic, needle-like fibers into the air. The fibers can then be inhaled or ingested by anyone who comes into contact with the contaminated air.

After being inhaled, the fibers lodge themselves in the body’s soft tissues and organs, where they can develop into a number of deadly diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. One of the most devastating aspects of mesothelioma is that the disease has an extremely long period of latency; a person can contract the disease but not be symptomatic for 20-50 years afterwards. Moreover, the symptoms of mesothelioma are very similar to the symptoms of other lung ailments such as emphysema, COPD, and lung disease, so it is difficult to accurately diagnose. By the time a diagnosis is made, treatment is usually ineffective. Currently there is no known cure for mesothelioma, and the prognosis is grim; on the average, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma die within 18 months of diagnosis.

There has long been speculation that secondhand exposure to asbestos dust or fibers could cause mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, but only a few deaths have been documented. Ryder says that he will seek compensation from Norton Abrasives for the death of his wife.