Men do not have exclusive claim as victims of mesothelioma, an incurable form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Women, too, have been diagnosed with and die from this terrible and preventable disease, and those numbers may be climbing.
Traditionally, men have been associated with occupations where they are at risk of asbestos exposure in roles such as carpenters, electricians, construction workers, engineers, power station workers, machinists and shipyard workers. But women, too, work in jobs and industries where they encounter asbestos.
Direct exposure at work, indirect exposure at home
According to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER program, women comprised 22% of U.S. cases of mesothelioma between 2014 and 2018. Direct and indirect exposure to asbestos may lead to getting the disease, which takes decades to surface.
As we know, certain professions are more at risk to asbestos exposure. Women, too, have worked in such jobs, sometimes, inside older buildings that have an abundant amount of asbestos. Those occupations may include:
- Factory worker
- Retail worker
- Office worker
- Nurses and other medical roles
- School administrators, office workers, teachers and teaching assistants
- Cleaners and housekeepers
Women (and children) also may receive indirect exposure to asbestos inside their homes. This may occur when a member of the family exposed to asbestos unknowingly brings home the fibers attached to his clothing. Asbestos fibers may attach to furniture, curtains, hair, laundry and may spread through physical touch as well.
Mesothelioma does not discriminate
Washington is among the five states – including Alaska, Maine, New Jersey and West Virginia – that report the highest rate of mesothelioma in the country, according to research published in 2013. The study also noted that rates among women usually were higher in states that reported high rates among men. Mesothelioma is a disease that does not discriminate.