Understood to cause around 5,000 deaths in the UK every year, asbestos-related conditions can be difficult to trace back to source, since it can be several decades between the exposure and when symptoms of illness first appear. Once asbestos has entered the lungs, any damage it causes is not reversible or curable, and in some cases, the conditions that develop as a result are fatal.
Asbestos has been banned from use in all forms in the UK since 1999. Prior to this, asbestos had been used extensively for decades in the construction industry, shipbuilding, transport, car parts and in large-scale heating systems. However, many of those working with it were not aware of the dangers and were not given adequate protection and so asbestos exposure was widespread. According to Health & Safety Executive (HSE) research, most deaths resulting from asbestos-related illnesses in the UK are the result of exposure before the 1980s, after which more asbestos-use regulations and safety measures began to reduce exposure significantly.
Those who were most at risk of asbestos exposure were those who worked with the material directly, including trades such as:
- Carpenters and joiners
- Painters and decorators
- Demolition workers
- Power station workers
- Heating engineers
- Dockers and shipbuilders
- Railway engineers
Whilst asbestos exposure was more prevalent for workers who were handling asbestos as part of their occupation, there are also cases of exposure and subsequent asbestos-related health conditions for workers in factories, warehouses and other environments where asbestos was present, even though the workers did not handle it directly themselves.
Asbestos exposure was not limited to workers either; there have been instances where family members of workers have been exposed to asbestos brought home on the worker’s overalls when doing the laundry, for example, and have gone on to develop fatal asbestos-related illnesses.
HSE projections indicate that around 1 in every 170 British men who were born during the 1940s will eventually die from mesothelioma (an aggressive cancer of the lung lining caused by asbestos exposure) due to the extremely high levels of asbestos exposure in so many industries during their working lives.
If you, or a loved one, have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and would like some advice on the support available, or the possibility of making a compensation claim, contact Dedicated Accident Solicitors for advice on your options and the next steps to take.