What is asbestos
Asbestos was used extensively during the 1970s as insulation around pipes, tanks, and other building materials. It is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that do not conduct electricity and are not affected by heat or chemicals. These fibres are both strong and flexible and can be broken up and woven into thin threads. It is for these reasons that asbestos was used so widely in many industries.
There are two types of asbestos: chrysotile asbestos and amphiboles. Chrysotile asbestos is in the serpentine group of minerals and has curly fibres. The other type, amphiboles, have rod like fibres. These fibres have the tendency to break into a dust of minute particles which float in the air or stick to clothing. When these are inhaled they can cause health problems.
Asbestos related health problems are the biggest single cause of work related deaths in the UK. Around 1% of men over the age of 40 will develop an asbestos related disease. It is also increasingly being found in women.
What causes disease?
Exposure and particularly prolonged exposure to asbestos is the cause of the disease. Exposure to asbestos does not mean a person will become ill, but the only way to prevent asbestos related disease is to avoid any exposure. There is no safe level of exposure.
Diseases caused by asbestos:
Asbestosis is a scarring of the lungs that has been caused by inhaling asbestos fibres. These have then been inhaled into the lungs where they fill the breathing passages and cause irritation, inflaming and scarring the tissue. It also causes the lungs to shrink which results in breathlessness. It is often decades after exposure to asbestos before any effects become evident. Asbestos related diseases are responsible for the biggest number of work related deaths, over 50,000 in the UK to date.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer, specifically cancer of the mesothelium. Exposure to asbestos is the cause of more than 80% of mesothelioma cases. The majority of mesothelioma cases start in the pleura or peritoneum. People who have had heavy exposure to asbestos are most at risk of developing mesothelioma. There is no cure for mesothelium and treatment entails trying to stop the cancer spreading with the aim of prolonging the person’s life.
People who have been exposed to asbestos have an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Smoking combined with having been exposed to asbestos in the past, will greatly increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
If a person is suffering from a disease that has been caused by asbestos they can normally take legal action. Claims will usually be made against the former employers who exposed them to the asbestos. Compensation will be paid by the employer’s liability insurance. If the former employer is no longer in business, a claim may still be possible. It will involve tracing the employer’s former insurers. Even if this is not possible, compensation may still be obtained under special scheme set up by the government.
It is vitally important to act as quickly as possible because strict time limits apply to bringing this type of claim and any unreasonable delay may prejudice the claim for compensation.
There are time limits to bring this sort of claim, it is therefore important to avoid unnecessary delays in bringing your claim. An unreasonable delay may prejudice any claim for compensation you make.