Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material which is durable and resistant to heat, fire and many chemicals and because of these qualities was widely used in many products across all industries between the 1940’s and 1980’s.
Once hailed a ‘miracle mineral’ and now banned in the UK asbestos can be found in any building built before the year 2000 which might include houses, offices, factories, hospitals or schools. It was commonly used as lagging material on pipes and boilers, flooring, roofing, in machinery and in asbestos insulating board (AIB) which had fireproofing qualities for use in fire doors, soffits and general fireproofing.
Workers who are most at risk include:
- Merchant Mariners
Other workers at risk include those former workers within the shipbuilding, power station, oil refineries, asbestos production, railway and engineering industries.
If you have been exposed to asbestos or have lived with a worker who was exposed to asbestos you could be at risk.
Asbestos can still be found today around the home or at work and could take the form of old insulation lagging on heating pipes and boilers, within ceiling panels, soffit boards or within floor materials. The danger arises when these items are disturbed or damaged and microscopic asbestos fibres are released into the air and inhaled. The rigid fibres can travel through the respiratory system into the lining of the lungs where they become lodged and over time cause inflammation and scarring and in more serious cases lead to cancerous changes.
All types of asbestos represent a risk to health if inhaled, and it is accepted that blue and brown asbestos fibres pose the greater threat to the bodies defence mechanism because of their size and aerodynamic shape.
Damage within the lung can take between 10 years and 50 years to show itself in the form of symptoms and might only be discovered during routine or specific medical investigations.
The Health and Safety Executive indicate that asbestos is responsible for the deaths of over 5000 workers each year which exceeds the number of people killed in road accidents.
If you are a home owner and have discovered what you believe is asbestos and/or you are contemplating DIY which might involve disturbing the material you should consider speaking with an environmental health officer at your local council before undertaking any further work.
Do not attempt to remove the material yourself if you have no experience or training in this regard and if you use the services of professional tradesmen please ensure you inform them of any asbestos or suspected asbestos in your home.
If you are a tenant and you discover asbestos in your home you should immediately draw this to the attention of your landlord.
Any asbestos to be removed should be undertaken by a contractor licensed by The Health and Safety Executive.
Further information can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website, http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/faq.htm#property-contain-asbestos
Any exposure to asbestos dust is potentially harmful and it is understandable for those in this situation to become anxious over the longer term effect to their health. Incidental and short term exposure is likely to involve minimal risk of developing an asbestos related illness in contrast to a heavy exposure over a period of time.
The risk of developing an asbestos related disease will naturally increase in instances where levels of exposure to fibres and time spent is extended. Unfortunately, it can take between 10 years and 50 years for symptoms to develop to enable a firm diagnosis to be made.
Common symptoms of an asbestos related disease might include:
- Persistent cough
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
- Frequent infections such as recurring pneumonia or bronchitis
- Blood in sputum/mucas
- Clubbed (swollen) finger tips
If you have encountered exposure to asbestos dust in your workplace and you have any concern over your health you are advised to consult with your GP. Your GP will ask you about your work and of your general state of health and is likely to examine you and listen to your chest using a stethoscope. A GP can assess the quality of your breathing and will listen to your lung sounds in order to identify potential airway obstructions and inflammation of the pleura.
If your GP considers further investigations are necessary you will be referred to your local hospital where you are likely to undergo further investigation which might include,
- Chest x-ray
- Chest CT Scan
- PET Scan
- Lung function tests
What should I do if I have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease or I find myself under investigation for a potential asbestos related disease?
You should remain positive throughout any treatments or investigation and contact us without further delay so we might understand more about your situation which will help us to assess your eligibility to compensation and benefits.
Your solicitors can deal with your enquiry even if you were employed or exposed to asbestos in England, Ireland or Wales
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