The science on this issue establishes that even short exposure to asbestos dust can cause malignant mesothelioma. There is even a case law in New Jersey that states that the courts accept that fact, even to the point where a judge may decide to dismiss a case with very short exposure if the disease is non-malignant asbestosis but not to dismiss a case with the same short exposure if the disease is malignant mesothelioma.
One of the diseases caused by asbestos exposure is malignant mesothelioma. It is a cancer of the pleura (the membrane between the lungs and the ribs) or of lining of the heart or the lining of abdominal organs. The only known cause in the United States is exposure to asbestos dust. It can have a long latency period, where the exposure was in the 1950's, 1960s or 1970s but the diagnosis might not be made until, say, 2015. The next sentence sounds like lawyer pressure - sorry! - but a person diagnosed with mesothelioma should contact a lawyer right away so the lawyer may take the necessary legal steps to protect the rights of the victim in the immediate days or weeks after the diagnosis.
The unfortunate answer is; Yes! I represent many wives and children who did the laundry of the man who was occupationally exposed to asbestos. The family members' diseases range from mild pleural thickening to malignant mesothelioma. There is appellate law in New Jersey that clearly supports the claim that there is a legal duty of defendants to family members; that is, defendants can be held liable for the diseases of the family members, not just the person exposed on the job. (January 6, 2015)