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May 31, 2005 |

Secondhand smoke has been proven to pose a number of extremely serious health risks to those who live or work with a smoker. Emphysema, cancer, decreased fertility, eye disorders, heart problems and death have all been attributed to this type of indirect exposure to the hazardous substances contained in cigarette smoke.

Now, researchers have found that a similar link exists between asbestos particles brought home by those who worked with the material and asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, developed by family members decades later.

A study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found a significant number of cases of the relatively rare cancer in family members of asbestos workers. According to the findings of Dr. Albert Miller of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center in New York, the cancer, which is mainly caused by exposure to airborne particles of asbestos, most often affects the wives and daughters of asbestos workers and may take over 40 years to develop.
A few cases involving sons and other relatives were also found, however.

The study concluded that exposure to particles of asbestos carried home on workers’ clothing and bodies was directly linked to 32 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in family members since 1990. About 90% of mesotheliomas in men have been attributed to asbestos because of their direct exposure to the material at work. In cases involving women, however, linking the disease to asbestos has proven to be more difficult. Based upon the stud results, Dr. Miller theorizes that many of these unexplained cases in women may be related to having lived with an asbestos-exposed worker at some point in their lives.

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