Industrial Disease – Asbestosis

What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is fibrosis, or scarring of the lungs; often caused by high intensity exposure, and/or long-term exposure to asbestos. This exposure leads to the inhalation and retention of asbestos fibres in the lungs where they then proceed to damage the parenchymal tissue; eventually leading to shortness of breath, coughing, severe breathlessness (dyspnea) and an increased risk of contracting lung cancer, mesothelioma as well as a number of other conditions. The detrimental effects of this disease generally worsen with age; in clinically advanced cases it can lead to respiratory failure.

Asbestos fibres come in two forms: serpentine (curved) and amphibole (thin and straight). The latter are primarily the cause for human disease as their shape allows them to more deeply penetrate the lungs. Complications occur when these fibres arrive at the alveoli (air sacs) in the lung where oxygen is released into the bloodstream. Here, the asbestos fibres provoke an immune response where the body attempts to destroy the foreign body. This induces an inflammatory reaction where the body will keep attempting to remove the fibres. Since asbestos is resilient to digestion, this immune response will continue to lay down connective and fibrous tissues which eventually results in a fibrous mass. This tissue causes alveolar wall thickening which diminishes elasticity and gas diffusion; this reduces the transfer of oxygen to the blood and the removal on carbon dioxide.

Asbestosis is a gradually progressive condition that can take from 10 to 20 years to detect after initial exposure, although this can sometimes take longer in some individuals. In the early stages there may be no noticeable symptoms; there are also no characteristic symptoms of the disease so when the effects are felt, some may attribute them to smoking, if cigarette smoking has been a previous past-time.

Many individuals will refer to an asbestos-related condition as asbestosis; but asbestosis is a condition in its own right and is distinct from other asbestos related illnesses.

Upon contracting asbestosis, there is usually a 20 to 50% chance of developing lung cancer, and a 10% chance of contracting the much rarer mesothelioma, which results almost exclusively from asbestos inhalation. According to studies and material published by the NHS, smoking when suffering from asbestosis can increase your chances of contracting lung cancer by a factor of 50.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a material that was often used in buildings and construction applications, namely for its heat resilient properties. The dangers of its use have been known since the early 20th century, but it was widely used for insulation, flooring and roofing. It was also used as pipe insulation and was sprayed on ceilings and walls. When the dust from asbestos products is breathed in however, it produces affects like thos mentioned above and for this reason, asbestos is now banned in the UK. However, buildings that were constructed before the year 2000 may still have asbestos in them.

Diagnosis

The primary symptom of asbestosis is often the slow onset of dyspnea (shortness of breath), especially on exertion. Clinically advanced cases of asbestosis may lead to respiratory failure. When listening to the lungs, the physician may hear inspiratory rales. When examining lung function, the characteristic finding in asbestosis patients is a restrictive defect that often appears as a decline in lung volumes and total capacity.

Unfortunately, there are no known curative treatments for asbestosis. As the symptoms worsen, in-home Oxygen therapy is often required to relieve shortness of breath. There are supportive treatments of asbestosis symptoms including respiratory physiotherapy to remove secretions from the lungs by postural drainage, chest percussion, and vibration. Some nebulised medications may be prescribed to aid in loosening lung secretions or to treat underlying Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Due to the patients decreased lung function and sensitivity to lung diseases, it is common for asbestosis sufferers to be immunised against pneumococcal pneumonia and annual influenza.

Asbestosis Claims

Since Asbestosis is uniquely attributed to the inhalation of asbestos fibres, often resulting from occupational work, it is officially recognised as an industrial disease. The ill-effects of working with asbestos have been catalogued since the beginning of the 20th century, and so lawsuits have been filed against asbestos manufacturers and employers for their failure to implement sufficient safety  measures after the risks of working with the substance became known.

This liability in the united states has reached billions of dollars; in the UK more people die due to asbestos related conditions than those who perish in road accidents. This is set to get worse due to the progressive nature of the condition, as more individuals will find themselves to be the victim of this disease.

Asbestosis claims can be dealt in two ways, on either a full and final basis, or on a provisional damages basis. The award of provisional compensation allows for the claimant to return to court to claim for additional compensation should the level of disability increase, this is often the most common method of dealing with a case. As far as the personal injury aspect of such a case is concerned, compensation levels can vary between £10,000 to just over £60,000.

The success of an asbestosis claim will depend upon the extent of asbestos dust exposure and it is also necessary to pursue all entities that exposed the victim to asbestos to make an industrial disease claim. In many cases, a claimant may find that the company responsible has since closed, so making a claim of this sort requires specialist knowledge and the ability to trace the insurance companies of these employers. For this reason, legal advice should be sought as soon as a diagnosis is made.

There are benefits available to sufferers of asbestosis and here at Beacon Law, your industrial disease solicitor, we are able to provide information on the options available to you.

Am I Likely to be Affected by Asbestosis?

Due the prevalent use of asbestos in homes and construction, many professionals within the construction and trade industries may find themselves affected. Some of the worst affected professions include: carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, builders, ship builders, engineers, miners, and any other person involved in the manufacture, handling and removal of asbestos products.

I Think I May Have Been Exposed, What Should I Do?

If any of the above applies to you, or if you feel that you may have been exposed to asbestos in the past, you should consult with your GP. If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath or chest pain, speak to your GP immediately.

What Should I do Now?

If you have spoken to your GP and have received a diagnosis, or if you suspect that you may be affected you should speak to us today about making a claim for Asbestosis compensation.

We can provide assistance for any Asbestosis compensation claim. In talking to us you will receive the utmost care and attention whilst we deal with your claim and we’ll keep you updated along every step of the way.