Asbestos was once one of the most popular manufacturing materials, favoured for its strength, resilience, and natural occurrence. Throughout the 20th century across the UK, this naturally occurring fibrous mineral was used extensively in the shipbuilding, construction and manufacturing industries.
Today, asbestos is far more commonly known as ‘The Silent Killer’ and is the direct cause of at least four serious and debilitating diseases.
Exposure to asbestos fibers and asbestos dust was first recognised as an occupational health hazard sometime in the early 1900’s, but it wasn’t until many years later that a clear link between asbestos use and lung problems was confirmed. In fact, it took until 1999 in the UK for the use of asbestos to be completely banned.
Horrifyingly, the number of people diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases continues to rise year-on-year. This is due to the fact that the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases often take many years, in some cases decades, to develop. The Health and Safety Executive reported that there was over 5,000 deaths in the UK in 2021 from asbestos-related diseases.
One of the most common diseases caused by prolonged asbestos exposure is asbestosis, a long term and uncurable lung disease which causes scarring of the lungs.
Here at Bonnar Accident Law, we have significant experience handling all types of asbestos exposure claims, including those who have been diagnosed with asbestosis. In this blog, we’ll explore the main risks and symptoms surrounding asbestosis, and all you need to know about making a claim for compensation.
What is asbestosis?
The Health and Safety Executive defines asbestosis as ‘a form of pneumoconiosis caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres, which is characterised by scarring and inflammation of the lung tissue’. Breathing in asbestos fibres causes scarring and thickening of lung tissues, which in turn, causes the lungs to lose elasticity and their ability to function properly.
Caused by excessive and prolonged periods of asbestos exposure, asbestosis is a chronic and irreversible condition in which the symptoms typically only start to develop several decades later. Shockingly, deaths from asbestosis continue to rise and there was a total of 490 deaths recorded in the UK in 2019, as a direct cause of asbestosis.
Who is at risk of asbestosis?
Exposure to asbestos occurs when a product containing asbestos is disturbed and asbestos fibres are released into the air and breathed in. The greater the exposure to asbestos, the higher chance you have of developing an asbestos-related disease later in life.
As such, the people who are most likely to be at risk of asbestosis are typically those who were exposed to asbestos in their workplace. People with jobs in the construction, maintenance and shipbuilding industries are identified to be most at risk due to the widespread use of asbestos in these trades. With that said, those who work in those industries today are still considered high risk for exposure as the material can still be found in many older buildings.
As well as those that worked or work directly with asbestos, it is possible for people to become unwell through ‘secondary exposure’. This occurs when people inhale fibres from the work clothes of a family member, or inhalation from living near a site where asbestos was regularly used.
What are the symptoms of asbestosis?
Most asbestos-related diseases are very slow to develop, and it can take years for symptoms to start showing. The main symptoms of asbestosis include:
- shortness of breath
- persistent cough
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- pain in your chest or shoulder
Sadly, these symptoms can progress to seriously affect normal daily activity and can lead to various complications, which can be fatal.
If you think you may be suffering with asbestosis, please seek advice from your GP who can refer you for the necessary tests to help diagnose the condition.
What other diseases can be caused as a result of exposure to asbestos?
Other than asbestosis, there are three other main diseases associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres; mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and non-malignant pleural disease.
Here at Bonnar Accident Law, we have significant experience handling mesothelioma claims. Mesothelioma is defined by the Health and Safety Executive as ‘a form of cancer that principally affects the pleura (the external lining of the lung) and the peritoneum (the lining of the lower digestive tract)’.
Cases of mesothelioma aren’t typically diagnosed until the cancer is already at an advanced stage, as the symptoms can be quite non-specific and don’t often appear until much later in the development of the disease. A diagnosis is almost always fatal, and often within 12 months of the symptom onset.
Devastatingly, the number of annual deaths from mesothelioma has increased steeply over the last 50 years, as it takes many years for mesothelioma to develop following inhalation of asbestos fibres. This increase in fatalities, with 2,369 mesothelioma deaths recorded in Great Britain in 2019, is a direct consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos between 1950’s and 1980’s.
If you would like to know more about claiming for other types of asbestos-related diseases, read our blog Can I Make a Claim for Asbestos Exposure or for mesothelioma claims, get in touch with us today for more information.
Who can make a compensation claim for asbestosis?
Anyone who has been exposed to asbestos can potentially make a claim but to make a claim for asbestosis, you need to have formally diagnosed as suffering from the condition.
We understand that making a claim for an asbestos-related disease is one of the more complicated claims processes. If you have been told that you may have asbestosis or if you are unsure of your diagnosis, get in touch with one of our No Win No Fee solicitors today. If you’ve made a claim previously that was unsuccessful, but your condition has since worsened, we may also be able to help
Just as importantly, in Scotland you have three years to file for compensation. This three-year period can start either from the date of your medical diagnosis, or from when you were made aware, or should have been made aware, that your asbestosis symptoms were related to a previous employment. As such, if you are diagnosed with asbestosis, it’s important that you seek advice as soon as possible.
If you’re claiming on behalf of a deceased family member, the claim must also be filed within three years of the date of death, or the date of diagnosis if this was discovered sooner.
How can I make a claim for asbestosis?
Once you have provided proof of your diagnosed asbestosis, any information you have that could help us link your asbestos exposure to a specific workplace as well as any evidence you may have that proves your employer was aware of the risks and failed to take reasonable steps to protect the workforce from exposure, can help your claim tremendously.
However, we understand that asbestos-related diseases can take decades to develop and it’s very common in these situations that your former employer may have ceased trading, or that you can’t quite remember when you were exposed. Not to worry, we can still help. We have extensive experience investigating these types of claims and will work tirelessly to ensure you receive the best financial settlement possible.
If you or a loved one need advice on filing a compensation claim for asbestosis, please get in touch with one of our No Win No Fee solicitors today.