Environmental Asbestos Affects Women More than Men

A new study suggests that women who lived around a plant in Italy, a plant that once used asbestos heavily, are more susceptible to developing mesothelioma. In fact, although the plant workers were also affected, close to 50% of the mesothelioma cases stem from environmental exposure as opposed to occupational exposure.

According to the study, which was performed by the National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College London and the Department of Preventive Medicine in Milan, Italy, researchers found there were more instances of mesothelioma stemming from environmental factors, affecting mostly wives and neighbors who lived closed to a Broni, Italy factory plant. From 1932 to 1988, the asbestos cement plant exposed workers on a daily basis, as well as those who lived with the workers, and the neighbors who lived in proximity to the factory.

Out of 147 cases of mesothelioma studied by the researchers, it was found that 138 of the cases were pleural, while the remaining 9 were peritoneal. At least 38 of the victims worked directly at the plant, while surprisingly, 37 people were among the workers’ family members, particularly the wives of the workers, who were more than likely exposed via their spouses’ clothing.

However, the highest amount of victims were not wives or plant workers. Instead, females who lived in Stradella, a neighboring town, were affected the most. Fourty-nine women in Stradella developed mesothelioma, although they didn’t work at the plant and didn’t have family members who worked at the plant. According to the study, which will be published in the January 2015 edition of Environment International, exposure to asbestos dust, which contained asbestos fibers, was the primary reason that most people in the study developed mesothelioma.

Second-hand exposure that leads to asbestos is not a new finding, but the study is one of the first in which environmental exposure is higher than occupational exposure. Throughout history, however, women, children, and others who lived with people who worked around asbestos have ran the risk of developing an asbestos-related illness. Since asbestos fibers are clear, odorless, and undetectable by the human eye, most family members have no idea that they’ve been exposed.

Asbestos fibers tend to cling to and become embedded into clothing, which can then transfer into the home. Unfortunately, after the fibers are ingested, the body cannot get rid of all of them.

Asbestos Diseases Still Surfacing

Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed strict regulations on asbestos use over 30 years ago, more and more cases are surfacing even today, and according to experts, we can expect this trend to continue. Since it take up to 50 years for the first signs of mesothelioma to appear, people who lived around job sites that used asbestos, worked at job sites that used asbestos, and lived with people who worked around asbestos, are all at risk.

If you feel you’ve been exposed to asbestos, it’s important to let your healthcare provider know immediately. It’s also important to have routine medical checkups, as the sooner asbestos diseases are detected, the better the chances that treatment options will be successful.

In addition, if you or a loved one have already been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to significant compensation. In fact, there is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set aside for those affected by asbestos illnesses. We invite you to get in touch with our dedicated and experienced mesothelioma lawyers today for a free, confidential case consultation.


Mensi, C, “Impact of an asbestos cement factory on mesothelioma incidence: Global assessment of effects of occupational, familial, and environmental exposure”, January 2015, Environment International, pp. 191-199.

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