Asbestos Related Disease Claims

Asbestos was used extensively from the 1950s to the 1980s as a fireproof building material. However, it was later found that the material contributed to the development of several forms of lung disease, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural disease and silicosis. As a result, it was banned from use across the UK. Despite this, employees were and still are affected by the harmful substance, which can cause serious problems to your health and can even prove fatal.

YouClaim’s solicitors are leaders in their field and can help you claim compensation if you have been unnecessarily exposed to asbestos.

Having worked with many victims of asbestos-related diseases over the years, we have seen first hand the devastating effects of asbestos. This is why we are dedicated to helping you and your family however we can.

If you or a family member has contracted an asbestos-related disease as a result of somebody else’s negligence, get in touch with our expert solicitors to discuss making a claim. You can contact us today by calling 0800 10 757 95, speaking to us via our live chat feature or filling in the form here

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What is asbestos?

Asbestos is an incredibly durable and fire-resistant material once widely used in building and construction. However, it became evident that the microscopic particles produced by the substance are incredibly harmful, leading to the material being banned from use. It was found that when the particles are inhaled, they cling to the linings of the lungs, becoming lodged in the soft tissue. This results in breathing difficulties, which can cause serious respiratory health complications.

Asbestos-related conditions

Our team has dealt with claims involving the following asbestos-related diseases:

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a deadly condition contracted by inhaling asbestos fibres in a contaminated workplace. When asbestos enters the lungs, macrophages - cells that break down foreign bodies - will attempt to break the fibres down by releasing special substances.

Unfortunately, these substances are unable to dispel asbestos particles and eventually damage the lung's small air sacs, known as alveoli. When you breathe in, alveoli help to transfer oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream, and when you breathe out, they transfer carbon dioxide from the blood so it can be expelled through the mouth. However, asbestos fibres cause the sacs to scar - known as fibrosis - which makes it difficult to get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of the bloodstream. This results in the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Chest pain
  • Nail abnormalities

The seriousness of the disease depends on the length of exposure to asbestos and the amount of fibres inhaled. Diagnosis is usually conducted by a physical examination involving an X-ray and a breathing test. Although an incurable disease, there are certain treatments that can make the illness easier to live with, including medication, oxygen inhalation and flu vaccinations.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that develops when tiny particles in asbestos work their way into the lining of the lungs. The cells then divide and multiply, attacking and causing permanent damage to nearby tissue. These cancerous cells can spread to other areas of the body, including the lining of your abdominal cavity (peritoneum) and the protective membrane around the heart (pericardium).

It is often the case that symptoms of mesothelioma are mistaken for pneumonia. This is why it is imperative to see your GP if you are suffering from any of the following symptoms:

  • Abnormal coughing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Perspiration
  • Chest or abdominal pain

In many cases, the condition is diagnosed in its advanced stages due to its symptoms often remaining benign for many years. Unfortunately, this means that life expectancy is drastically reduced - often to around 3 years after initial discovery and diagnosis.

Pleural disease and thickening

The pleura is the double-layered membrane that lines the inside of the ribcage and protects the outside of the lungs. The two layers are filled with a small amount of liquid that helps reduce friction between the layers and allows the lungs to expand and contract.

When asbestos fibres are inhaled into the lungs, they can work their way out to the pleura and may cause fibrosis or scarring. This causes localised thickening or calcification of the outer layer of the pleura, known as pleural thickening. This can spread over a large area, restricting breathing.

Silicosis

Silicosis disease is caused by the inhalation of silica dust. In medical terms, silicosis disease is characterised by interstitial fibrosis of the lung tissue, which ultimately results in shortness of breath and may - particularly in cases of continued exposure - develop progressively, resulting in increased difficulty with breathing.

There are three common forms of silica dust found in industry:

  • Quartz is used in glass manufacturing to sand-blast products, grind glass and cut soft stones. It is also present in soaps and is very important in the computer industry, which uses quartz to make silicon semiconductors
  • Tridymite tends to be colourless or white in colour and is used in the making of ceramics and other similar trades. It is also useful to chemists and mineralogists
  • Cristobalite is used to calculate the temperature of certain rocks when they were formed, but in industry, cristobalite is used in paints and the manufacture of ceramics and jewellery

If a worker is frequently exposed to large amounts of silica, symptoms of silicosis can present themselves within a year. However, sometimes symptoms can take as long as 15 years or more to develop.

In minor cases, symptoms include breathlessness and coughing. More serious cases can result in inflamed lungs and fluid in the lungs, leading to breathing difficulties and low blood-oxygen levels.

Where asbestos can be found

Asbestos is a very dangerous substance once used regularly in construction. It has been banned in the UK for several years, but its presence has led to individuals being exposed to asbestos and falling seriously ill as a result. It is the responsibility of employers and local councils that manage premises to ensure asbestos is removed quickly and safely.

Old buildings that are likely to have asbestos in them include: 

Factories

Factories constructed between the 1950s and 1980s may have been built using asbestos, as the material is incredibly durable and fireproof. It is the factory owner and employer’s duty to ensure that the dangerous material is removed safely to prevent workers and visitors from inhaling the toxic particles.

Homes

The vast majority of houses containing asbestos do not pose much risk to those living in them if the substance is in reasonable condition and is not disturbed. Problems may arise, however, when building work and maintenance is carried out on a house containing it. Asbestos can be found in many areas of the house, including:

  • Eaves and gutters
  • Shed and garage roofs
  • Insulating sheets found in walls and ceilings
  • Flue pipes
  • Ceiling tiles

Materials such as sprayed coatings, lagging, insulations and insulating boards should only be removed by a contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive. Any builders, maintenance workers or contractors hired to work in a home containing asbestos should be informed in order to reduce the chance of any materials being disturbed.

Under no circumstances should materials containing asbestos be disposed of through household waste. Instead, they should be legally disposed of as hazardous waste. If you are concerned about asbestos in your home, speak to your local qualified environmental health officer.

Schools

Schools constructed in the mid-20th century may still contain dangerous levels of asbestos. As many of these buildings are still in use, anyone who works at or attends a school is placed at risk of exposure. Those at risk can include:

  • Pupils
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Caretakers and cleaners
  • Contractors, labourers or officials employed to work within the building
  • Residents of a building that was previously a school

It is the responsibility of local education authorities and local councils to ensure the safe removal of asbestos as soon as they are aware of its presence.

Shopping centres

Some shopping centres constructed between the 1950s and 1980s may have been built from materials containing asbestos. It is the responsibility of shopping centre owners and managers to effectively remove asbestos to reduce the chances of shoppers and workers being exposed to the deadly substance.

Social housing

The majority of asbestos-related diseases have affected those who work in construction, shipbuilding and other heavy industries. However, it is also possible for those who live in social housing to be harmed by exposure, as many of these buildings were constructed with asbestos-lined walls and boilers, which could pose a serious health risk to residents.

Warehouses

Warehouses built between the 1950s and 1980s may also contain asbestos, as it was widely used in construction due to its hard-wearing and heat-resistant qualities. Warehouse owners and employers have a legal duty to ensure asbestos is safely removed if they are aware of its presence. Failure to do so could result in employees and visitors being exposed to the deadly particles.

Materials containing asbestos

Asbestos is often found in the following materials:

  • Textiles (e.g. fire blankets)
  • Composites (e.g. toilet cisterns, sinks and bath panels)
  • Cement products
  • Lagging (e.g. around boilers and pipes)
  • Insulation (e.g. wall plaster boards, ceiling panels and fire-proof panels)
  • Coatings on ceilings, walls, beams or columns
  • Decorative features  

Diagnosing asbestos-related illnesses

Illnesses related to asbestos exposure are often difficult to diagnose, as many of the symptoms are similar to other illnesses. For example, coughing and weight loss could reasonably be considered to be a symptom of flu.

To make a diagnosis more accurate, you must inform your doctor if you have had contact with asbestos in the past. The doctor will then carry out several diagnostic tests to determine whether you have an asbestos-related disease. This includes an X-ray, thoracoscopy (testing of the lung tissue) and a breath test.

Professions linked to asbestos-related illnesses

Aerospace engineers

Although aerospace engineers mainly design and oversee the creation of products and components, they are also involved in supervising the testing and installation of equipment. They are exposed to asbestos when they carry out manual work taking place on materials containing the substance, such as brake pads and linings. Breathing in small fibres that are released when these materials are installed or manipulated can lead to a range of serious health problems.

Architects

Although architects are responsible for the design of a building, they may be required to work with or near equipment and materials that can sometimes contain asbestos. Exposure to asbestos for prolonged periods of time can place architects at risk of developing serious, and sometimes life-threatening, diseases.

Boiler repair engineers

Engineers called out to repair boilers made between the 1950s and 1980s may be at risk of asbestos exposure. Servicing or repairing an old boiler may disturb the asbestos contained within it, resulting in the microscopic particles becoming airborne, which can then be inhaled by the boiler repair engineer. Homeowners who hire an engineer should make them aware that their boiler is an old model and could contain asbestos, so protective measures can be taken before repair.

Builders

Many old buildings contain asbestos as it is a very durable material. However, since it has been known to cause life-threatening illnesses, it has been banned across the UK. That said, builders working on premises built during the 1950s and 1980s may still be exposed to asbestos. It is the responsibility of those who hire a builder to make them aware of the presence of the deadly substance.

Brake mechanics

A mechanic working with brakes may be exposed to asbestos, as vehicle parts contain the substance because of its heat-resistant qualities. When the brake lining wears down, asbestos particles can be released into the air, putting the mechanic in danger of contracting a deadly disease.

Construction workers

From the 1950s to the mid-1980s, the use of asbestos as a building material in construction projects was common. Working on these sites could have resulted in you being frequently exposed to harmful fibres when drilling, moving or fitting insulation around walls and pipes.

Whether you are or were working as a permanent employee or a contractor, the site foreman has a duty of care to ensure you are not exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos.

Carpenters

Carpenters can be exposed to the dangers of asbestos in a variety of situations, including working on a construction site and removing insulation from a house. Those who hire a carpenter should make them aware of the presence of asbestos to ensure they act safely around the deadly material.

Demolition workers

The very nature of demolition makes those who work in this industry extremely vulnerable to asbestos exposure and the adverse effects it can have on personal health. As many buildings containing asbestos are now being remodelled or destroyed, demolition workers are exposed to the deadly dust.

Due to the nature of the job, it can be difficult for an employer to ensure workers are not exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos at work. However, precautions can be taken to keep staff as safe as possible.

Dockers and ship builders

Asbestos was once widely used in the shipbuilding industry because it was highly resistant to fire and corrosion, and was a very effective insulator. Those who worked on the docks and built ships during this time were at high risk of being exposed to the material. If you worked on ships during this time, it is likely you were exposed to the potential dangers of asbestos.

Electricians

Electricians can be exposed to asbestos when working within old buildings undergoing significant remodelling. When construction materials containing asbestos are cut or removed, fibres can be released into the air, exposing electricians to the substance.

Another common cause of exposure is the process of drilling into walls to install new wiring and to carry out repairs. This will inevitably produce large amounts of dust that may not be immediately recognisable as asbestos, meaning it can be breathed in without workers realising they should take precautions to protect themselves.

Engineers

Although the majority of engineers will not directly handle material containing asbestos, they are still at risk of suffering the effects of inhaling fibres. Civil, electrical, nuclear and mechanical engineers could all work on sites and near buildings where asbestos is present.

For civil engineers, exposure tends to occur when the buildings they are working on have been built using asbestos cement pipes, sheets, boards and insulation. This can also be the case for electrical engineers, while nuclear engineers have been known to work on reactors containing asbestos pipe coverings, valve packing and insulation.

Insulators

Insulators are at particularly high risk of developing asbestos-related diseases because of the widespread use of asbestos in insulation during most of the 20th century. Insulation was the largest source of asbestos exposure during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, putting countless insulation workers at risk of developing illnesses.

 

When workers have to replace old insulation or carry out repairs, they are at risk of breathing in the fibres when they cut into or disturb old and crumbling insulation. Inhaling the fibres can cause serious health problems, many of which do not begin to show symptoms until several years, or even decades, later.

Joiners

Joiners are occasionally required to work on sites where materials containing asbestos are present. If these materials are disturbed, they can create asbestos dust, which in turn can cause serious damage to the lungs, leading to the development of mesothelioma and other diseases. Whether you’re a permanent employee or subcontractor, an employer has a responsibility to reduce exposure to asbestos.

Labourers

Even if everything has been done to remove the presence of asbestos, there are still buildings that contain the deadly substance. This can place labourers hired to work on construction sites at risk of inhaling particles, which can cause very serious lung diseases.

Machinists

A lot of work that machinists do involves repairing different components and working alongside heavy machinery on ships and in factories. When carrying out work on parts that contain asbestos or working in close proximity to contaminated insulation, machinists can inhale the small fibres of dust produced when asbestos is drilled, sawed or manipulated.

When machinists are put at risk because of their employer’s failure to take proper safety precautions, such as providing dust masks, they can be held responsible for their employee’s ill health.

Laggers

Laggers are responsible for insulating pipes and buildings, and those who worked in this industry prior to the 1990s may have had to handle materials that contained asbestos. Cutting, trimming or smoothing insulation materials may have caused the harmful microscopic particles to become airborne, placing laggers at risk of inhaling the deadly dust.

Marine engineers

Marine engineers play a vital role in the design, function and construction of ships and other marine vessels. Working on ships and around shipyards, marine engineers will often be present during major building and renovation works, which may place them at risk of being exposed to asbestos.

Masons

Brick and stonemasons are involved in demolishing and building many premises every day. Although asbestos has now been banned, it was used in the cement of many old buildings because of its durability, placing masons at risk of exposure.

Mechanics

Asbestos was at one time a popular component for use in vehicle brakes because of its heat resistant qualities and strength. Mechanics can be exposed when they work with specific car parts containing the substance.

When replacing brakes or carrying out repair work on clutches, mechanics use compressed air to clean components, which blows dust into the air. This dust can contain tiny asbestos particles that can be breathed in by mechanics while they work. The risk of inhaling dangerous dust particles is further increased due to the fact many mechanics work in close quarters in garages that are not well ventilated.

Motor vehicle repair (MVR) mechanics

Tradespeople and mechanics working in motor vehicle repair (MVR) are regularly exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres, which can result in potentially serious health issues.

Due to its insulating properties, car manufacturers would apply asbestos on vehicle brake pads, clutch mechanisms and gasket components. Although the importation, supply and use of this material has been prohibited since 1999, it is still found in older vehicles.

Although cases of asbestos-related cancers among garage workers are relatively uncommon, employers must take practical precautions to ensure staff members are not exposed to dangerous materials that could pose a health risk.

Plant workers

In many industrial sectors, including power stations, oil refineries and chemical plants, asbestos was used in cooling towers to speed up the process of cooling liquids and hazardous substances.

However, as this process causes the rapid evaporation of water, it also triggers the release of surrounding fibres, particularly in older cooling towers with disturbed or disintegrating asbestos.

In some cases, workers who have suffered exposure to fibres have gone on to experience long-term health effects, including asbestosis and mesothelioma. If the plant owner failed to provide an adequate working environment or supplied workers with protective equipment and clothing, they could be held accountable for the victims’ suffering.

Plumbers

Both large-scale, industrial projects and smaller, residential and business projects can carry risks to plumbers if a building’s materials or infrastructure date back to the mid-20th century. This is because many products, including boilers, pipes, ducts and tanks, were manufactured at a time when asbestos was widely used as lagging. The same can also be said of materials used around a building’s boiler or pipework, such as joint compounds, cement, pipe coating, welding rods, pump valves and gaskets.

When plumbers disturb the lagging - or other material involved in the plumbing process - that contains asbestos, harmful fibres are released into the air in the form of dust. If these fibres are inhaled, they can collect in the lungs, causing inflammation and scarring that may lead to illness.

Power station workers

Power station employees come into contact with asbestos in a number of ways, such as when upgrading and installing machinery, which requires them to cut, drill or saw through materials containing asbestos. The dust produced contains small fibres that can be inhaled by both employees and those nearby.

Some workers come into direct contact with the dangerous substance when they spray asbestos pulp onto heated machines such as boilers or pipes. Cutting and drilling also creates significant amounts of dust that, when inhaled, can cause serious health problems.

Poorly ventilated stations can also lead to other employees, who do not necessarily work directly with asbestos materials, breathing in airborne fibres.

Public sector workers

Although it is no longer used in the construction of buildings, asbestos has been found in buildings constructed as recently as 1999. Buildings built between 1945 and 1975 are highly likely to contain asbestos. During the post-war years, it was an important building material and was used in a number of public workplaces across the country, including:

  • School buildings
  • Hospitals
  • Factories
  • Universities
  • Office buildings
  • Government buildings, including parliament

Those who worked in the public places where asbestos was present were at high risk of exposure and many have been known to develop asbestos-related diseases years after inhaling the harmful fibres.

Railway workers

In the 1950s and 1960s, the value of asbestos-containing material as an insulator meant it was used extensively on carriages and diesel engines to prevent the possibility of fire. However, the compound used was usually sprayed on the components, and workers, who were not then aware of the possibility of contracting an industrial illness, did not wear masks or other breathing apparatus.

Roofers

Roofers can come into contact with asbestos when using shingles and tiles containing the dangerous material. When the use of the substance was more widespread in construction, between the 1950s and 1980s, roofers would sometimes spray asbestos-contaminated emulsions onto finished roofs and remove old roofing containing asbestos when renovating a building. Indeed, roofing containing asbestos is still being removed from homes, offices, schools, hospitals and a variety of workplaces, usually when building works take place on the site.

These processes expose roofers to dangerous particles, particularly when roofing material and insulation are being removed. The dust created is harmful and when inhaled can lead to a range of serious, and often deadly, health problems.

Sheet metal workers

Before the 1990s, the dangers of asbestos were not apparent and materials containing the substance were used in or around sheet metal. The type of work involved in sheet metal work means that asbestos particles were likely to be released, placing workers at risk of contracting deadly lung diseases.

Shipyard workers

Asbestos was a very popular material in shipbuilding due to its ability to resist corrosion and hot temperatures. On boats, the substance was often used to insulate boilers, incinerators, pipes and other mechanical equipment.

Due to its excessive use, poor ventilation and inadequate health and safety regulations, many dockyard workers were exposed to asbestos fibres. These fibres can be particularly harmful and, if inhaled, can lead to a number of respiratory illnesses.

Steamfitters

Steamfitters (now known as pipe fitters) were exposed to asbestos because of their use in and around pipes as insulation. During the dismantling, repairing or reassembling of pipes, asbestos particles could have become airborne and inhaled, resulting in a lung disease being contracted.

Welders

Many welders working between the 1950s and the 1980s would have worked with materials - welding rods, for example - that contained asbestos. As there was little awareness surrounding the dangers of asbestos, welders would not wear suitable personal protective equipment, leaving them vulnerable to inhaling the deadly dust particles.

Window fitters

Asbestos was once widely used in the construction of homes and other buildings because of its versatility, heat resistance, strength and insulating properties. Window fitters come across the substance when the work they are doing disturbs the asbestos in and around window caulking. Drilling and cutting can cause it to break into smaller fragments, releasing tiny fibres into the air, which can cause lung damage when inhaled.

Employer’s duty

Your employer is legally inclined to do all they can to prevent staff from being exposed to asbestos. Employees must be made aware of the effects of asbestos and be given the appropriate equipment to protect themselves.

If a place of work is believed to contain asbestos, a risk assessment should be carried out to determine whether or not staff may be in danger. In most cases, workers should be able to accomplish their duties without disturbing the material. If this is impractical, an appropriate licence must be applied for from the Health and Safety Executive before work begins, and steps should be taken to ensure tasks are accomplished safely and in accordance with legal guidelines.

In workplaces where work can continue despite the presence of asbestos, managers should restrict access to the area, put up warning signs and ensure adequate lighting is in place. All staff should be suitably trained on how to work competently with asbestos and be provided with suitable equipment, including:

  • Class H vacuum cleaners
  • 500-gauge polythene sheeting
  • Scrapers
  • Buckets of water with rags
  • An appropriate asbestos waste container
  • Disposable overalls with hoods
  • Boots without laces

If an employer fails to adequately reduce the risk of asbestos exposure, those adversely affected may be entitled to make a compensation claim. All responsible business owners and employers will have insurance policies to protect themselves and their business from justified claims for compensation if there has been an unforeseeable incident where harm has been caused to an individual.

FAQs

Can you claim for asbestos exposure via a family member?

The families of those who have worked with or been exposed to asbestos are also at risk of developing diseases related to asbestos. When fibres brought home on the clothing of a family member are breathed in, they can still cause long-term damage.

If you develop an asbestos-related disease due to indirect exposure to asbestos, a claim for compensation can be sought against those who were responsible for the initial exposure.

Can I claim for asbestos exposure suffered as a child?

Many children growing up between the 1950s and the 1980s would have been exposed to asbestos because of its use in constructing buildings during that time. Many of these children, particularly those who grew up near shipyards or construction sites, have since gone on to develop asbestos-related conditions later in life and there have been a number of claimants who have been successful in receiving sums after childhood exposure.

However, it’s best to speak to a member of the specialist asbestos litigation team to find out whether you are entitled to compensation for an asbestos-related disease.

What state benefits am I entitled to?

Those affected by an asbestos-related disease may be able to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. To be eligible, you must:

  • Have had contact with asbestos after 4th July 1948
  • Have accompanying evidence of asbestosis or pleural thickening
  • Be able to prove that your employer was negligent in allowing this to happen

The value of the benefit that you could receive depends upon how badly you have been affected by your asbestos-related illness. The payment can be made 15 weeks from the first day you were disabled, whether or not you have been off work.

For those with mesothelioma, the benefit can be paid from when you were first disabled by the cancer. This can be claimed after you have retired and there is no age threshold.

To claim your benefit you should contact your social security office and they will guide you through the process.

Is there a time limit for making a claim?

Making an asbestos claim for compensation as soon as possible after diagnosis of any asbestos-related disease is vital. Associated conditions may be life-limiting and doctors cannot predict how long a sufferer may have to live, so many sufferers want the peace of mind that their family is financially secure should the worst happen.

Due to the condition often only emerging 20 or more years after the initial exposure, the sufferer may well have changed jobs, perhaps more than once. However, all the major insurance companies in the UK have given assurances that they wish to continue paying justified claims to people suffering from asbestosis and related industrial illnesses. But they point out that legal action must begin either within three years of the time when the asbestos contamination occurred or three years from first diagnosis.

What if my workplace has closed since?

If a business has closed in the interim since the employee worked with asbestos, its administrative records may well be lost, but it may still be possible to trace the former insurer to pursue a claim.

Should all avenues of enquiry fail to find the appropriate insurance company, sufferers of asbestosis and their loved ones may be eligible for compensation through a government no-fault scheme. There is separate legislation to cover people who have suffered indirectly, such as families harmed by asbestos fibres on a worker's clothing.

How YouClaim can help

Every year, we work with sufferers of asbestos-related illnesses to help them win the compensation they are entitled to from those responsible for the exposure to the harmful substance.

We’re aware that no amount of money can compensate for the pain and suffering of an asbestos-related disease, but it can ensure that you are not left out of pocket because of your illness, be it through an inability to work or because of medical costs that you’ve had to cover.

Our solicitors are highly experienced in claims of this type and have an excellent track record in claiming compensation for those suffering from any of these deadly diseases. We are adept at tracking down an employer’s liability insurers even if the company has ceased trading. So whether you were exposed to asbestos a year ago, ten years ago or even three decades ago, it is possible to find those responsible and make a claim for compensation.

We also understand the emotional, physical and financial impact living with the condition can have on your life and will treat all cases with compassion and sensitivity.

To find out how we have helped others claim for an asbestos-related illness, take a look at our case studies below: 

Get started today

If you or a family member has been affected by an illness due to exposure to asbestos and it was through no fault of your own, our solicitors are waiting to help you. To start a claim, simply call 0800 10 757 95, use our live chat feature or request a callback by completing the enquiry form here

Case Studies