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Asbestos Claims

Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven.

Asbestos - The Silent Killer

Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. These fibers are not affected by heat or chemicals and do not conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos have been widely used in many industries. Asbestos has been mined and used commercially since the late 1800s, but its use increased enormously during World War II. Since then, it has been used in many industries for insulation, fireproofing, and sound absorption.

Exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of several serious diseases:

  • Asbestosis - a chronic lung ailment that can produce shortness of breath, coughing, and permanent lung damage
  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma - a rare cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen; and
  • Other cancers, such as those of the larynx, oropharynx, gastrointestinal tract, and kidney.

These conditions frequently do not manifest themselves for some 15 - 40 years. There are frequently absolutely no symptoms of the disease for up to 40 years but can be very virulent and aggressive once diagnosed.

In the UK almost 2000 people a year are diagnosed with mesothelioma (sometimes referred to as ‘diffuse’ or ‘malignant’ mesothelioma). Exposure to asbestos is responsible for approximately 9 out of 10 mesothelioma cases. There are thought to be other rare causes of the disease but none are fully understood at this time. The disease has been described in medical literature since 1870 although the first suspicion linking asbestos and mesothelioma did not appear in the U.K. until 1935 and a definite link was not reported until 1960. Development of asbestosis usually requires significant exposure but mesothelioma can be caused by very small doses of asbestos fibres.

Although the risks of asbestos exposure and its relationship to debilitating conditions have been known since the late 1950s and 1960s asbestos was still widely used in many industries until the late 1970s, and later although to a lesser extent. Unfortunately, despite the apparent very significant dangers some employers did not provide adequate protection or take measures to prevent exposure.

The following is a non exclusive list of occupations known to have put workers at risk of asbestos exposure. The list is not complete and final and you may have worked in a different occupation and experienced exposure to asbestos.

  • Carpenters and Joiners
  • Boiler, Pipe and Heating Workers
  • Shipbuilding/Shipyard Workers
  • Navy Seamen
  • Dockworkers
  • Laggers and Sprayers
  • Mechanics
  • Plumbers and Gasfitters
  • Roofers
  • Construction and Demolition Workers
  • Painters and Decorators
  • Electricians
  • Railway Workers and Coach Construction
  • Engineers
  • Power Station Workers
  • Laboratory and Research
  • Asbestos Manufacture and Sales

In addition, exposure is not limited to those who worked directly with asbestos. Asbestos being taken outside the workplace and perhaps into the home on the work clothes of someone working with it, or for example, living near an asbestos factory.

Steve Wengraf
Partner Rutherfords Solicitors
Law Society Personal Injury Panel member

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