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

National Mesothelioma Awareness Day c5810986 e1632385966395

Raising awareness about mesothelioma

This Sunday, Americans, their federal departments and agencies and their media are being called upon to observe the annual US National Mesothelioma Awareness Day with ceremonies and activities. Back in 2010, September 26 was earmarked by the US Congress as a special day to raise the American public’s awareness about mesothelioma and to encourage all … Read more

worker 6544391 1920 e1631783205514

UK house builder becomes first to divert asbestos away from landfill

We’ve heard some fantastic news about asbestos in the UK during the past few days. Leading developer Lovell has become the first UK house builder to actively tackle the challenge of asbestos waste. The firm is collaborating with Wolverhampton-based Thermal Recycling to safely package and convert asbestos waste into a safe and reusable cement substitute. … Read more

road sign 4244285 1920 e1631178843233

Asbestos causes a headache for constructor and neighbouring businesses

Asbestos hit the headlines once again this week when it brought a construction project grinding to a halt, closed off a town centre road and disrupted nearby businesses. The Stoke Sentinel has published an article sharing the frustrations of businesses in Piccadilly Arcade in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, who were unable to access their parking spaces or … Read more

surgery 3034071 1920 e1630572942721

Looking after asbestos will help us all breathe more easily

Many people have lives filled with work and family and 101 other activities that take up our days. So, today we’d like you to do something for us – just pause for a second and take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. Did you manage to do it? The average person takes … Read more

Acorn Samples 6 e1629960810872

Concerns raised about asbestos on British beach

Most of us love a seaside holiday but sadly one of Britain’s beaches hit the headlines last week for all the wrong reasons. You may remember that back in May we ran a blog on ‘Are holidaymakers in danger of finding asbestos on beaches?’ which highlighted a number of British beaches where asbestos had been … Read more

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res 49 e1629361953760

Acorn receives the backing of major organisations

At Acorn Analytical Services we are very proud of the wide range of asbestos management and training services that we provide. We are proud to say we’re a fully independent and impartial company and that clients can be confident that the results and recommendations they receive from us will always be in their best interests. … Read more

building plan 354233 1920 e1628755740921

Will planning reform put more people at risk from asbestos?

There have been lots of concerns raised in the national press recently about new planning reforms which mean a wider range of commercial properties can now be converted into flats. The reforms came into force at the beginning of this month in a bid to regenerate city centres which have struggled during the pandemic. However, … Read more

Jake 2 social media e1628158451908

Focus on Asbestos Analyst Jake Newell

At Acorn Analytical Services we are committed to developing the next generation of asbestos consultants. We invest a lot of time and money into training our staff because asbestos will remain in many of the UK’s buildings for the foreseeable future and it needs to be managed properly to protect people’s lives. Earlier this year … Read more

malham cove 2451405 1920 e1627545202532

Acorn is proud of its Yorkshire roots

Did you know that this Sunday is recognised in the UK as Yorkshire Day? The annual event originally began as a military holiday but today it has grown into a celebration for everyone to enjoy and is designed to encourage people to spend time in one of our most beautiful counties. Anyone who is familiar with Acorn Analytical Services will know that we have a thriving … Read more

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res 88 e1626943239246

Latest figures released for deaths from asbestos-related cancer

This month the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its Mesothelioma statistics for Great Britain, 2021 report. The report reveals the number of deaths attributed to the asbestos-related cancer during 2019 and makes for interesting reading. Mesothelioma has a strong association with exposure to asbestos and current evidence suggests around 85% of all male … Read more