Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that has a long latency period. This means that it takes the disease several years — even decades — to develop after a person has been exposed to asbestos. Because of this fact, mesothelioma is more commonly found in older adults and seniors. Encountering mesothelioma in children or young adults is rare, but it does happen. Nearly 5 percent of mesothelioma cases occur in youth.
When an adult develops mesothelioma, it’s usually due to asbestos exposure in the workplace. For children, the reason can be more difficult to pinpoint. Generally, for cases of mesothelioma in children, the patient cannot relate to a history of asbestos exposure.
Researchers have been looking for other potential causes of the disease in relation to children and young adults, but there are so few cases that it’s a difficult subject to investigate.
Secondary Asbestos Exposure
One way that a child or young adult may be exposed to asbestos is through indirect, or secondary asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, secondary exposure can be just as dangerous as first-hand.
While first-hand asbestos exposure usually occurs in the workplace or environment surrounding it, secondhand exposure happens when a close family member or friend comes into contact with a person who has asbestos fibers on their hair, skin, or clothes. Asbestos tends to cling to those who work with it, making it easily transferable.
Asbestos in the Environment
Asbestos is now more widely dispersed in the environment due to human use, as well as naturally, primarily in underground rock. If these environments are disturbed and the asbestos is moved, then it has more of a chance of coming in contact with another person. If someone is around a construction site then this has a higher likelihood of happening.
Children’s Products Containing Asbestos
Unfortunately, asbestos has been found in certain children’s products. The EWG Action Fund discovered traces of asbestos in a few different capacities. Back in 2015, the EWG discovered asbestos in children’s crayons and toy crime lab kits.
In 2017, The National retail chains Claire’s and Justice, chains that sell jewelry, makeup, and other items for young girls, had to recall several make-up products that were found to contain asbestos.
Another common product that asbestos has been discovered in recently, is talcum powder. Generally used in cosmetics, crayons, food products, vitamins, and some prescription pills, talc is a mineral that’s at higher risk for having traces of asbestos. This is because talc is mined underground, and according to geologists, some asbestos has been found near talc deposits.
Asbestos in Schools and Homes
Structures built between 1930 and 1980 are likely to contain asbestos in some capacity. The carcinogenic material was used in thousands of products that were also used in the construction of buildings all over the U.S. Even today, asbestos is still being found in several building structures, including homes, workplaces, and schools. More specifically, places that asbestos may be found include:
- Covers for air ducts
- Door gaskets
- Floor and walls surrounding wood-burning stoves
- Heat resistant fabrics
- Insulation products
- Outside window panels
- Paper products