U.K. resident Joan Morris’ family was shocked when at the age of 83 she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare cancer that develops in the tissue that lines the lungs and abdomen. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure and can take up to 50 years to develop. Where could Morris have become exposed to the disease?
Morris died last year, just four months after her diagnosis. That’s when her family turned to an attorney to help identify the source of her exposure. He determined her asbestos exposure didn’t come from being directly exposed to the carcinogenic mineral, but through secondary asbestos exposure while washing the work clothes of her late first husband, who worked at the Tilbury Docks in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Asbestos is a fiber that was widely used in materials used in construction and shipbuilding. It is now banned in more than 60 countries, including the United Kingdom. It is still used in the United States, but its use has been restricted since the 1980s. That’s because inhaling or ingesting the microscopic fibers of asbestos can cause serious health problems to those exposed to it, including the incurable lung ailment asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Secondary asbestos exposure is not uncommon. Those who worked with asbestos-containing products return home from work with their clothes covered in the minuscule fibers. As a result, workers would unknowingly expose children and spouses to cancer-causing asbestos through hugs or by having their work clothes laundered.
Morris’ family is now appealing for anyone who may have information regarding work conditions at the Tilbury Docks to help the family gain more information in hopes of seeking compensation for Morris’ wrongful death.
“We understand that it was unlikely that she personally worked in environments where asbestos was present, so we are now keen for information regarding whether exposure was caused by washing (her late ex-husband’s) clothing,” Morris’ husband at the time of her death, William Morris, told Metro.