In the 19th and 20th centuries asbestos was a much used material, thanks to its properties of high tensile strength and flexibility. Asbestos becomes potentially life-threatening if damaged, however, as its harmful fibres are released into the air and can be breathed in. The fibres accumulate in the lungs, and the resulting inflammation and scarring can lead to severe health problems, including asbestosis and mesothelioma. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) currently estimate that asbestos-related illnesses account for 4000 yearly deaths.
The harmful effects of asbestos became known in the late 1800s and regulations were introduced to lessen the threat of exposure to those who worked closely with the material. It was not until almost a century later that asbestos was banned in the UK. It is still widely used in many developing countries.
We are all exposed to a small level of asbestos fibres during our lives. This is because the material was so widely used in the past within building construction, including products such as pipe insulation, vehicle brakes, and even oven gloves! The risks associated with asbestos are heightened with increased exposure, meaning that those employed directly with asbestos have an increased risk of developing asbestos-related conditions in later life.
Common occupations associated with exposure to asbestos include laggers, insulation engineers, demolition workers, builders, asbestos manufacture workers, roofing contractors, electricians and plumbers. Many people have suffered second hand exposure to asbestos from living with someone who worked regularly with asbestos and washed their clothes or shared a room with them.
You should seek immediate medical advice if you suspect you have had exposure to asbestos and are also suffering from symptoms such as breathlessness. If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness it is advisable to consult a specialist asbestos solicitor who will be able to advise you whether you are eligible for compensation.
exposure to asbestos if you have been in contact with asbestos and want legal advice