What is asbestosis?

Having established that it is not a general name for all asbestos diseases, what is asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a form of lung disease, which like the other asbestos related illnesses is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos, most commonly in the workplace. That being said, there have been cases where the condition of asbestosis has been caused by only low-level exposure in a non-workplace setting.  Asbestosis is only caused by exposure to asbestos.

With asbestosis, the damage caused by asbestos exposure causes scarring of the lungs. This is also known as fibrosis.

In what jobs were people at risk of getting asbestosis?

The use of asbestos was finally and totally banned in 1999. Thankfully the ban has had a dramatic effect on the numbers of people being exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Therefore, in most cases, we are talking about the types of job that would in the past have caused you to get exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos is at its most dangerous when it is being cut, sawn or planed. Each of these activities produces clouds of asbestos dust and particles, which when inhaled stay on the lungs. Over time they  become the cause of asbestos disease.

Below is a list of some of the industries or occupations where workers were at risk of being exposed to asbestos:

  • Railway Engineering works
  • Shipbuilding
  • Manufacturing
  • Power stations
  • Car mechanics
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Mechanical engineers
  • Painters
  • Joiners and carpenters
  • Electrical, energy and boiler plant workers
  • Maintenance fitters
  • Plumbing, heating and ventilation engineers
  • Farmworkers
  • Hospital workers
  • Pipe and boilermakers

What are the symptoms of asbestosis?

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Persistent cough
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Wheezing
  • Swollen fingers
  • Loss of appetite

Sometimes the existence of asbestosis is only found during a medical examination that has been carried out for unrelated reasons.

In other cases, the asbestosis sufferer may be wholly asymptomatic i.e., they do not show any symptoms at all.  In such instances, the only evidence of asbestosis would be during an examination of a sample of lung tissue.

Can asbestosis be cured?

There is currently no cure for asbestosis. It is a progressive disease, which means it will get worse over time, not better.

The disease progresses slowly. It can take up to 20 years from asbestos exposure to symptoms appearing and then subsequent diagnosis by a doctor.  This period is known as ‘the latency period’.

Once the disease of asbestosis takes hold, symptoms will get progressively worse. Lung function becomes impaired, and the scarred lung tissue will, in effect, strangle the lung.

How severe  individual cases of asbestosis are, depends on the amount of exposure  someone has experienced i.e., how much dust has been inhaled and over how long.

Asbestosis patients will also each have a different life expectancy, dependant on lifestyle, nutrition, whether they have use of therapy treatment or medication to control the illness and whether they smoke(d) or not. Many will live for years or decades following diagnosis.

If I’ve got asbestosis will I go on to get mesothelioma?

There is a commonly held myth that an asbestosis sufferer will go on to get mesothelioma. It is not true that as a matter of course someone who has asbestosis will automatically go on to develop mesothelioma.

That said, if someone has got asbestosis, it generally means that they have been exposed to a heavy  dose of asbestos over a reasonably significant period of time. For that reason, there is an increased risk of someone with asbestosis going on to suffer one of the cancerous types of asbestos disease: mesothelioma or asbestos related lung cancer. However, it will not happen as a matter of course.

Can I get compensation for asbestosis?

Most cases of asbestosis are caused by historic exposure to asbestos at work. Your claim will succeed if you are able to prove that your employer was negligent in failing to provide you with any protection (or sufficient protection) from exposure to asbestos.

Most asbestosis claims that are currently being made, relate to asbestos exposure that took place in workplaces in the 1960s through to the 1990s. Very little protection from asbestos was provided as a matter of course during those years. Yet by then, employers knew of, or were deemed to have knowledge of, the dangers of asbestos, making their failure to provide protection, acts of negligence.

Put simply – if you were exposed to asbestos at work and you are able to put together a list of the employers you worked for that could have caused you to be exposed to asbestos, you have reasonable prospects of succeeding in an asbestos disease compensation claim.

Will my asbestosis claim fail if the company I worked for no longer exists?

If you have reasonable prospects of succeeding in a claim for asbestos compensation against your former employer, for the reasons already mentioned, the fact that the company you worked for no longer exists, shouldn’t mean you can’t make a successful claim.

This is where an experienced asbestos disease solicitor is worth their weight in gold!

If you have an expert asbestos claims solicitor on your side, then in most cases, they will be able to find out who the insurers of your former employers were at the time you worked for them. The benefit of using a specialist asbestos solicitor, is that they will have access to databases and records that match insurance companies with companies that have gone out of business or have been bought out. As long as the insurer can be traced, even though exposure was many years ago, it will be possible to successfully claim asbestosis compensation from them.

I think I may have asbestosis  – what should I do next?

Two things:

  1. Call Mooneerams Solicitors on 029 2048 3615 and ask to speak with our specialist asbestos solicitor partner. He has over 20 years’ experience of helping the victims of asbestos exposure to claim compensation for asbestosis.

As well as advising you about making an asbestos compensation claim against your former employers, he will also be able to advise you about the possibility of claiming for a lump sum payment from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and other forms of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB).

He will also advise you of any asbestos disease support groups that there may be in your local area. Many asbestos disease sufferers find support group meetings very useful.

You can also arrange for our asbestos solicitor to call you back by sending us your details using the online form on our Contact page.

  1. If you haven’t yet been diagnosed with asbestos disease but you worked with asbestos and are now experiencing any of the symptoms we have described, go to see your GP as soon as possible. If you would prefer to speak with Mooneerams asbestos solicitor first, that is fine. He will be able to advise you in more detail, about what you need to tell your GP, as well.

Can I make a No Win No Fee asbestosis claim ?

In most cases, if our asbestos solicitor believes that you have reasonable prospects of making a successful asbestosis claim, he will be able to fund your claim by using a conditional fee agreement. There are often referred to as No Win, No Fee agreements, meaning that in most cases, if you do not win your claim you will have nothing to pay.

If you are successful with your claim, our asbestos solicitor will not charge you a fee.

Call Mooneerams on 029 2048 3615 for initial legal advice from our experienced asbestos disease solicitor.

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