How Do Children and Young Adults Get Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma can take years, or even decades, to develop. In most cases, mesothelioma occurs more often in adults and seniors. However, around five percent of mesothelioma cases involve children or teenagers.

When an adult develops mesothelioma, it’s usually due to asbestos exposure in the workplace. For children, the cause is more difficult to pinpoint. Generally, children don’t have a history of asbestos exposure. Researchers have been looking for other potential causes of the disease in relation to children and young adults, but it’s a complex subject to investigate.

Secondary Exposure

One possible way a child may develop mesothelioma is through indirect or secondary asbestos exposure. Secondary exposure can be just as dangerous as direct exposure. While first-hand exposure usually occurs in the workplace or surrounding environment, secondhand exposure happens when a close family member or friend comes into contact with someone with the fibers on their hair, skin, or clothes. Asbestos tends to cling to materials and surfaces, making it easily transferable.

Environmental Exposure

The toxic mineral is now more widely dispersed in the environment due to human use. It’s also found in deposits underground. If these environments are disturbed and asbestos fibers are released, the toxin can affect people nearby. For example, people who live or work near an active construction site have a higher chance of exposure.

Asbestos Source Location in the Environment
Airborne fibers from the disruption of building materials Indoor air
Construction, deterioration, and disposal of asbestos products and materials Outdoor air and settled dust
Release of fibers from brake linings or crushed asbestos-filled rock used in road construction Street dust
Cast-off mine and mill tailings, asbestos cement pipe, the disintegration of other asbestos-containing materials moved by rainwater, erosion of natural land sources Drinking water
Weathering of asbestos-filled rock, the release of fibers from a disruption in mining and milling Outdoor air and settled dust

Children’s Products Containing Asbestos

EWG Action Fund discovered traces of asbestos in children’s crayons and toy crime lab kits. In 2017, national retail chains Claire’s and Justice, which sell jewelry, makeup, and other items marketed towards young girls, recalled several make-up products found to contain the mineral.

Talcum powder may also contain trace amounts of asbestos, according to geologists. This mineral is mined underground and is often located near rock deposits, which can contaminate pure talc. It’s typically used in cosmetics, crayons, food products, vitamins, and some prescription pills.

Asbestos causes latent mesothelioma. Think you were exposed? Request a case evaluation to pinpoint the cause and who’s responsible.
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Contamination in Schools and Homes

Structures built between 1930 and 1980 will likely contain asbestos in some capacity. The carcinogenic material was used in thousands of products that were also used in building construction across the country. Asbestos is still found in some buildings, including schools, but AHERA prohibits this due to its harmful effects on children’s health. Other contaminated products could include:

  • Covers for air ducts
  • Door gaskets
  • Floor and walls surrounding wood-burning stoves
  • Gutters
  • Heat resistant fabrics
  • Insulation products
  • Outside window panels
  • Paper products
  • Patching compounds and textured paint
  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Roofing and siding shingles
  • Soundproofing materials
  • Vermiculite in potting soil
  • Vinyl floor tiles, sheet flooring, some plastics, and adhesives
  • Water tanks


Mesothelioma symptoms in children or young adults are similar to those in adults. Signs include trouble breathing, pain under the rib cage, and unexpected weight loss. However, other health conditions may also cause these symptoms, so it’s important to take your child to the doctor for a definitive diagnosis.

Testing, Prognosis, and Treatments for Children and Young Adults

Children must undergo similar processes for testing and diagnosing mesothelioma. Testing to diagnose and stage the disease may include:

  • Physical exam and health history
  • Chest x-rays
  • CT and PET scans
  • Biopsies
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Thoracotomy
  • Cytologic exam

Once a child or young adult is diagnosed with mesothelioma, a parent or guardian must consider the prognosis and treatment opportunities. Children and teenagers generally have a similar prognosis to adults, between one and five years, depending on the stage of the disease and surrounding health factors. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.

Next Steps

If you or a family member is facing a mesothelioma diagnosis, it’s likely a result of corporate negligence. Your loved one may be eligible for compensation to cover medical bills and lost wages. Complete our free case evaluation form to connect with a qualified attorney.

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