Many have heard of asbestos and most know it is a toxic substance that was once in common use by many industries throughout the 20th century.
Asbestos and asbestos-related illnesses
Asbestos in all forms was banned in the UK by 1999, but this ban does not mean that the effects of asbestos have gone. During the 20th century, the material was used in construction, ships, trains and power stations, to name but a few settings, and many working with it were not given adequate protection and were not aware of the dangers.
Exposure to asbestos can result in asbestos-related diseases such as:
- Asbestosis: non-malignant scarring of the lung tissue
- Mesothelioma: a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs
- Asbestos-related lung cancer
- Diffuse pleural thickening: extensive lung scarring
- Pleural plaques: the membrane surrounding the lungs becomes thickened and accumulates a chalky material if exposed to asbestos
These diseases are often the result of breathing in asbestos fibres, which can damage the lungs. Currently, there are no known safe levels of asbestos exposure. One of the characteristics of asbestos-related diseases is that it can take years, or even decades, for the symptoms to show themselves. Unfortunately, by this time, there is usually very little that can be done to either treat or manage these conditions.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring microscopic fibres that were once hailed a miracle material due to their resistance to heat, fire and some chemicals. All asbestos minerals are odourless and tasteless; this means it can be difficult to identify by visual examination and any materials suspected to contain asbestos must be tested in a laboratory.
Asbestos was widely used in the building trade from the 19th century to the late 20th century. Products with these microscopic fibres were used in the construction of houses, hospitals, schools, ships, power stations and many other public and private buildings.
When is asbestos a risk?
Asbestos can still be found in many buildings that were constructed prior to the ban. Generally, asbestos that is left undisturbed is not considered a risk. It becomes a risk if it gets disturbed (i.e. during building works, or if the property is damaged in some way). If asbestos is disturbed, it can then release microscopic fibres into the air that are known to cause asbestos-related diseases when breathed in.
If asbestos is found in your property or your workplace, then you will need to find a qualified asbestos removal firm to get rid of the asbestos safely.
Who is most at risk of asbestos exposure?
Those who are most at risk of asbestos exposure are those who work or worked with the material directly. Professions such as:
- Shipwrights and those involved with shipbuilding
- Railway engineers
- Some factory workers
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Asbestos is prevalent in older school buildings, and as a result, some teachers and even former pupils have suffered from asbestos-related diseases. There have also been cases of wives of those who worked in the above trades suffering from such diseases as mesothelioma due to handling and washing their husband’s work clothes. Any exposure to asbestos can, unfortunately, result in contracting an asbestos-related condition.
Compensation for asbestos-related diseases
Most conditions associated with asbestos exposure are considered industrial diseases. This may mean you can claim compensation from the employer that exposed you to asbestos in the workplace – even if they have since gone out of business. In some circumstances, it could also be possible to claim compensation even if your exposure was not at work; for example, if you came into contact with it through a family member or if you lived near a place that was known to use asbestos.
Sometimes the effects of asbestos exposure are not known until it’s too late. If a relative has recently passed away due to an asbestos-related disease, it may still be possible to claim on behalf of their estate and for any surviving dependants.
If you have any questions or want to know if you have a claim for yourself or on behalf of a relative, please don’t hesitate to contact Dedicated Accident Solicitors on 01332 897 222 or message us here.
Read about just a few of our successful asbestos claim cases: