The 20th century witnessed the real birth and death of asbestos, it saw widespread use as a building material owed to its resistance to heat and its cost effectiveness. Many people went as far as to say that it was a wonder material. However exposure to asbestos has since been linked to multiple chronic illnesses that vary in severity and have in some cases proved to be fatal. Many people who worked with asbestos many years ago are now suffering from life changing conditions, that in the whole are not curable.
As the number of people being diagnosed with an illness related to inhaling the dangerous fibres so has the amount of asbestos compensation claims. Asbestos has since seen a blanket ban in the United Kingdom and many other countries, which includes the import and use of the substance.
Although asbestos had been primarily used in the building trade and featured in products such as AIB’s (asbestos insulation boards) and roofing shingles it was regarded so highly by companies that it was utilized in all manner of items such as dish clothes and cigarette filters. This has meant that the majority of employees who worked within an industrial job such as a plumber or on a shipyard will have come into contact with asbestos in one way or another and therefore could be at risk of developing a serious health issue.
I will start by talking about mesothelioma as I believe that it is the most serious of the asbestos related illnesses. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer type generally found in the lining of the lungs (pleura) but has been known to affect other areas of the body such as the the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) and the sac that surrounds the heart (pericardium). Mesothelioma like most asbestos related illnesses generally takes upwards of 15 years to manifest so the majority of the sufferers tend to be older men and women.
Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult due to a number of other conditions which have similar symptoms but will often entail a physical examination followed by an x-ray/ MRI scan which will show if there is any suspicious fluid in the area. If fluid is present a biopsy is often needed to confirm the diagnosis. Once diagnosed with mesothelioma the patient is often given a life expectancy of approximately 18 months owed to the aggressiveness of the tumour. However with the ever expanding amount of treatments such as chemotherapy and invasive surgery to remove the tumours available patients are thriving for ever increasing amounts of time.
Another condition that is induced by exposure to asbestos is called asbestosis. Asbestosis which is often labelled as pulmonary fibrosis is the scarring of the lung tissue. When fibres are inhaled they progress into the lining of the lungs. This causes a inflammatory reaction. Like almost all other asbestos related conditions asbestosis takes several decades before symptoms start appearing (although increased exposure has been proven to reduce this). Symptoms may include an extreme shortness of breath due to the walls of the lungs thickening and advanced cases of asbestosis may lead to complete respiratory failure. Sadly the treatments for asbestosis remain few and far between although there are accounts in which home treatments such as oxygen therapy have been said to assist with the condition. It is also advisable to immediately cease any further exposure to asbestos and refrain from smoking as cigarettes are already responsible for a number of respiratory conditions such as C.O.P.D (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and have now been proven to increase the risk of developing a lung cancer.
Although mesothelioma and asbestosis are the most prevalent and often the most severe diseases that are caused by exposure to asbestos they are certainly not the only conditions. Pleural plaques and pleural thickening have also been directly linked to exposure but have also been known to have other materials which can act as an initiator. Pneumoconiosis is yet another respiratory illness that is often related to inhaling excess dust or hazardous materials and can often have a major impact on the way that you live you life. If you do believe that you have encountered asbestos as part of your job even if it was only a minor amount of exposure it is advisable to take a trip down to your local G.P as its better to be safe than sorry!
By Adam Howard
Adam Howard from Atrium Legal
Adam writes regularly on asbestos and the dangers it poses. Atrium give advice and assistance in making claims for asbestosis compensation against the employer who subject them to this dangerous substance.