Get In Touch

Exposure To Asbestos Dust From A Family Member’s Contaminated Work Clothes

The specialist Asbestos disease team at Hodge Jones & Allen assist Mesothelioma sufferers and their families every day. Many clients were exposed to Asbestos dust through their work carried out decades ago. However, the Team are also regularly meeting clients whose exposure to Asbestos happened because they washed a family member’s work clothes and those work clothes had Asbestos dust on them. Unfortunately, the law is extremely unfair in relation to these “secondary exposure” claims.

The information set out below is given from the point of view of a wife washing her husband’s Asbestos contaminated work clothes. However, the same information also applies to other family members who came into contact with the contaminated work clothing. This could include children who hugged their father when he came home from work and he was still wearing his work clothes.

Women washing husband’s work clothes

During the 1960s to 1980s in particular, many employers didn’t offer washing facilities to their employees. This meant that the workers who had been using Asbestos materials – including laggers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, millwrights, welders, shop-fitters and labourers – were unknowingly taking home Asbestos dust on their clothing and body. The female of the home would usually do all the laundry, including washing the Asbestos contaminated work clothes belonging to their husband.

It has to be remembered that during this time laundry was washed by hand in the bath or kitchen sink. Women collected up the dirty washing from around the home, sorted it into piles and routinely shook off the excess dirt and dust before proceeding to wash the clothing by hand. That dust being shook off included Asbestos fibres, which were then spread around the home. The female inhaled that Asbestos dust during the routine chore of doing the laundry each week. Children of the worker also were likely to have inhaled the Asbestos dust that was littered around the home from the contaminated work clothes.

It goes without saying that the men had no idea they were bringing home a dangerous dust to their loved ones. Our specialist Asbestos disease lawyers have met men who blame themselves for the fact their wife has contracted Mesothelioma from washing his work clothes. However, the true position is that the employers of those men were at fault for allowing workers to use Asbestos materials in the first place, for not ensuring washing and laundry facilities were available at work and for not warning their employees that Asbestos dust was a health hazard not only for workers but also for family members.

The law

The law in these cases is unfair and unjust. There is a very strict requirement that if someone has developed Mesothelioma as a result of washing contaminated work clothes then that exposure must have taken place after 31st October 1965. Bearing in mind Asbestos materials were widely used in the UK for decades before 1965, many women are caught by this requirement.

Our specialist Asbestos disease team have worked with women who have developed Mesothelioma and whose only known source of exposure to Asbestos dust is from washing their husband’s work clothes. However, if the laundry washing only took place before 1965, she is not entitled to any compensation from anyone. There is no getting around this and no “special rule” for these innocent women.

How can it be right, legally or morally, that a wife who washed her husband’s work clothes after 1965 can attempt to bring a compensation claim for her Mesothelioma condition but another woman who washed her husband’s work clothes in 1964 cannot?

As if these women aren’t already facing a huge legal battle, the law goes even further to make things difficult for them. Even if the exposure to Asbestos dust from washing contaminated work clothes took place after 1965, there is still a high chance the claim won’t be able to be pursued. This is because the relevant public liability insurance has to be identified, which usually just doesn’t exist. The insurance required to be identified has to be the insurance in place 5-10 years before first symptoms of the Mesothelioma condition. If the husband’s former employer ceased trading many years ago, that insurance just isn’t going to exist, as the former employer isn’t trading. Furthermore, there is no central record or archive that can be checked for historic public liability insurance policies.

So even a woman who washed Asbestos contaminated clothing after 1965 may not have anyone to pursue for compensation, as her husband’s former employer ceased trading many years ago and the relevant insurance information is not recorded anywhere (if the insurance was even taken out in the first place).


Our Asbestos disease team at Hodge Jones & Allen have seen first-hand the injustice caused to women who find themselves in this awful situation. It is just not right and we have been campaigning for change and fairness. We believe there should be a scheme of last resort set up for Mesothelioma sufferers who find themselves unable to claim compensation because of factors outside of their control.

If you agree this area of law is unfair, please sign our petition for change here.

Legal advice

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Mesothelioma or any other Asbestos related disease, contact us now on 0808 271 9413 or request a call back. We will discuss with you all potential sources of exposure to Asbestos dust and advise on your options. You may be entitled to compensation and also to DWP benefits and we will assist with all of that. Our specialist Asbestos & Mesothelioma Team can also signpost you to your local Asbestos Support Group, who will provide emotional and practical support.

Further Reading