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The Risk of Asbestos Carried on Clothing

It is a little known fact that health can be put at risk from asbestos dust and fibres transported on clothing. 

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A tragic example is the recent case of Julie Lawless, a 59-year-old grandmother from Torquay, who died on New Year’s Eve 2015 from mesothelioma. She had been diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease in September, when she was told she had more than a year to live, and had previously suffered pain since June that she had thought to be a trapped nerve.

On December 28 she was admitted to Torbay Hospital but failed to respond to treatment and died three days later. Her cause of death was given as pneumonia caused by mesothelioma.

Torbay and South Devon coroner, Ian Arrow, told the inquest:  "On the balance of probabilities Julie has been exposed to asbestos during her lifetime.

A lack of awareness of the dangers of asbestos can have fatal consequences.

"I am satisfied she's been exposed to asbestos dust in her family, in so far as her father's dust on his overalls, or may have been exposed to dust at work. She died from mesothelioma.

"On the balance of probabilities she contracted it as a result of exposure to asbestos dust during her lifetime."

Mrs Lawless’ father had been an engineer for BT and his job involved cutting cables lagged with asbestos.

The court heard from her sister, Elaine, how their father “would come home in uniform and flakes used to come off. His uniform was an all-in-one overall which he would stay in for an hour.”

It is one of the many myths of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma that only those who have directly worked with asbestos are at risk. In fact, asbestos dust and fibres are easily transported and it is sadly common for people to be exposed to asbestos carried on clothing and in hair.

We recently pursued a mesothelioma compensation claim for a client whose wife worked as a pay clerk for a small local building supply company in North Devon, where she was exposed to asbestos being cut within the builder’s yard near her office. For more information on this, read our case study here.


A lack of awareness of the dangers of asbestos can have fatal consequences. Victims of exposure to asbestos may not be aware of the consequences for many decades after the initial exposure until it is possible for doctors to diagnose mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses.

In the event that you are exposed to asbestos it is important that you register this exposure as soon as possible. This way, in the unfortunate event you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, a trace to the time, place and circumstances can be established in pursuing a future claim. One of the tragedies of being diagnosed with mesothelioma is that the diagnosis is so long after the person was exposed to asbestos that the victim may struggle to remember.

Patrick Walsh is a principal lawyer specialising in industrial disease claims at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have a specialist team of asbestos compensation solicitors that deal with asbestos claims on a No Win No Fee basis. For a free consultation call 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

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