Mesothelioma in younger people: not just an occupational disease

What does asbestos look like
Mesothelioma Lung

Mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases typically affect older people who were exposed to the substance at work, often decades before their symptoms appear. This occupational setting has certainly been to blame for the majority of cases, but instances of mesothelioma in younger people are also causing increasing concern.

Secondary exposure to asbestos via a parent or older relative is one of the reasons why young adults contract the disease, but environmental factors such as asbestos in school buildings and children’s toys may also be a factor.

What is mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that typically affects the pleura and/or the peritoneum. It occurs almost exclusively as a result of asbestos exposure, but as each exposure is cumulative, even short periods of time inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibres can cause life-threatening illness.

Symptoms of malignant mesothelioma aren’t generally experienced until the disease has reached a late stage, so why would younger people contract pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma if occupational exposure isn’t a factor?

Why has mesothelioma in younger people become an issue?

There are typically three scenarios where asbestos exposure can occur:

In the workplace – occupational exposure

Apart from in developing nations where child labour is an issue and there’s no asbestos ban, mesothelioma in young people is unlikely to be contracted in an occupational setting given the disease typically takes more than 10 years to manifest.

When another person brings asbestos fibres into the home – secondary exposure

Secondary exposure is known to have caused mesothelioma in younger people – notably in those whose parent(s) worked with the substance, and the parent returned home with asbestos fibres on their work clothing.

Outdoors, or inside buildings where asbestos is present – environmental exposure

Environmental exposure can occur when asbestos fibres and dust are disturbed, either outdoors – being carried by the wind, for example – or inside an older building. This might be a domestic property, or any building constructed before the asbestos ban.

It could be a major cause of malignant mesothelioma in younger people, particularly as asbestos in school buildings is a known issue. But given the widespread use of asbestos to fireproof and insulate, this educational setting isn’t the only environment where asbestos could have been inhaled or ingested by a young person.

Hospitals, libraries, museums, and other older public buildings, all potentially contain asbestos, and there have also been warnings of the substance being used in the manufacture of children’s crayons and chalk.

High mortality rates from malignant mesothelioma

Figures published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show 2,595 deaths occurred from mesothelioma in 2016.¹ Although the main influence behind this figure was occupational exposure, the fact that mesothelioma in younger people even occurs shows the extent to which we’re all at risk.

If you would like more information on asbestos and its dangers, Acorn Analytical Services can help. We offer a full range of asbestos services including asbestos surveys, asbestos testing, and asbestos removal. Please contact one of our expert consultants if you’re worried about asbestos in your building, or indeed about any aspect of this toxic substance.

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

England star Stuart Pearce has helped to raise awareness of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma: How an England footballer is bringing home the dangers of this hidden killer

THIS afternoon, England’s Three Lions made a winning start to their World Cup campaign beating Iran in their first match in Qatar. But one footballing legend fears he could be in danger of developing mesothelioma after starting his career as an electrician in the 1980s. While former England legend Stuart Pearce is now undoubtedly best … Read more

Viviana, one of the newest members of Acorn's team

Team talk: Meet Viviana one of the talented new recruits at Acorn Analytical Services

WITH the UK in the grip of an asbestos epidemic, recruiting talented, experienced staff to join the award-winning team of experts at Acorn Analytical Services has never been more important. Despite being banned in new buildings more than 20 years ago, asbestos remains a huge problem for many businesses and, as a result, demand for … Read more

It's time to learn your asbestos ABC

Asbestos: How learning your ABC could help us to save lives

At Acorn Analytical Services we have one very simple message – ABC – or Asbestos Before Construction. It’s a simple message but it’s also an important one. Before carrying out building work of any kind you must check for the presence of asbestos first. Not doing so could have potentially serious implications for the health … Read more

Our Movember heroes, Lewis, Dave and Dan

Meet Dave, Dan and Lewis – Acorn’s amazing Movember heroes

AS we start November, Acorn Analytical Services is very proud to be supporting Movember, the annual charity event which shines a spotlight on men’s health, in particular, mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. We pride ourselves on being at the heart of our community and we always try to give back … Read more

Asbestos management company is growing

Acorn Analytical Services: An ambitious asbestos management company which continues to grow

FROM small acorns strong businesses grow – something that everyone at Acorn Analytical Services is extremely proud of. Even in turbulent times, Acorn Analytical Services continues to lead the way, offering reliable asbestos management services to a wide range of businesses and organisations – from well-known high street brands to local schools and colleges. In … Read more

Asbestos training

Asbestos training: Acorn Analytical Services launches free session to build knowledge among architects

ASBESTOS has once again dominated the headlines this week reaffirming our worst fears that the UK is in the grip of an asbestos epidemic. Many older buildings, including factories, schools and hospitals, contain this dangerous material which over time is starting to degrade. It’s a ticking timebomb and, as one of the UK’s leading consultancies, … Read more

Mesothelioma dangers in the classroom

Mesothelioma: We must protect our teachers from any hidden dangers

BEHIND every statistic we read about mesothelioma there lies a story – the story of another life lost from prolonged exposure to asbestos. Sadly, over the years it’s a story that has become all too familiar. Despite being banned in the UK more than 20 years ago, asbestos is still all around us – in … Read more

Asbestos industry turbulence: Acorn remains strong

Asbestos industry turbulence: Acorn Analytical Services is strong, dynamic and well-placed to weather the storm

WHILE economic uncertainty may be starting to bite in the asbestos industry, Acorn Analytical Services continues to go from strength to strength offering essential support to clients right across the UK. With more than 20 years’ experience in the asbestos and health and safety industry, we’ve become a trusted partner to a growing number of … Read more

Mesothelioma day 2022

Mesothelioma Day: Shining a light on the work of Mesothelioma UK

TODAY, September 26, marks Mesothelioma Day in the US, an important day to raise awareness of the disease and of the dangers of asbestos worldwide. Even though asbestos was banned from new buildings in the UK more than 20 years ago, it is a problem we all still live with. Many buildings, including factories, schools … Read more

Behind the scenes of our laboratories

The science bit: Putting the important work of our laboratories under the microscope

AMONG the experts at Acorn Analytical Services is a dedicated team of laboratory analysts who work in our in-house laboratories in Northampton and Cleckheaton. Their work involves supporting our consultants, and our clients, by analysing samples of materials which are found on-site or sent to us to be investigated. Here we take a more detailed … Read more