What do you do if you’ve worked with asbestos in the past?
Paul Rooney Legal, Solicitors
Asbestos is the greatest cause of work related deaths in the UK, and work related exposure is the most common source of contact with asbestos. For this reason, it’s vital to be aware of the dangers of exposure and the steps required following diagnosis of an asbestos related disease.
Asbestos exposure can occur in various places of work, including:
- an asbestos mine or asbestos processing plant
- working in a high-risk occupational surroundings, such as construction, painting and decorating or automotive industries
- serving on military facilities, including ships, where asbestos has been used in construction
It’s important to note that it generally takes recurrent, heavy exposure to asbestos to be at risk. Working in a building where asbestos was used in its construction, but is suitably sealed, is not likely to result in contracting an asbestos related disease, as not a high enough dose of asbestos will be inhaled.
In the UK, the greatest risk of asbestos related lung disease arises from insulation work, although some work activities are more highly associated with asbestos exposure. For instance, the use of power drills and work that involves the physical disturbance of asbestos is more likely to create a significant concentration of asbestos fibres in the air. DIY activities can also cause exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, develops from triggered biological changes in the body after asbestos fibres have accumulated. As it can take some 40 years or more to manifest, new cases are expected to rise and experts believe that by 2050, there will be 90,000 deaths attributed to mesothelioma in the UK.
Diagnosis of mesothelioma is difficult, but symptoms include breathlessness, chest pains, weight loss, fatigue and persistent coughing. While these symptoms are not always signs of lung cancer, it is advisable to consult your GP if you have them.
The outlook for mesothelioma is poor, often because of the advanced stage it is at when diagnosed. According to the NHS, most people with the condition will die within three years.
In 2010, there were 2,347 deaths from mesothelioma in the UK. Asbestosis is not as common, causing 189 deaths in 2009, while 1,015 people with the condition were assessed for industrial injuries disability benefit in 2010.
Cases of asbestos related diseases have also emerged from living near asbestos factories or washing the clothes of a loved one who works with asbestos. High risk areas are shipyards, railway engineering and factories.
If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, it is strongly recommended you speak to your GP as soon as possible. If you know, make sure you tell them the dates of possible exposure, the type and likely amount of asbestos you’ve been exposed to.
Understandably, if you are diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, you will be worried and scared. You will want the best medical care and you might be entitled to compensation which could help with your medical care.
If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to asbestos, you can contact the British Lung Foundation Helpline on 03000 030 555.