What support is available for Asbestos-related illnesses?

Posted on: 22 April 2016 by 50connect editorial

Alan Jolliffe looks at the legacy of asbestos and the options open to workers who think they may have an asbestos related illness.


It’s no secret that asbestos is bad news, yet it’s still thought to be present in more than three-quarters of UK school buildings and be responsible for 5,000 premature deaths each year - three times the number of fatalities caused by road accidents. Consequently, MPs have called for all traces of asbestos to be eradicated from UK buildings by 2035.

While this is extremely important for the health of future generations, individuals who have come into contact with asbestos may already be at danger of developing serious illnesses.

Ticking time-bomb

The problem is that many of the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases can take years to manifest, and their severity may not immediately be apparent. While long-term exposure is the primary cause of these diseases, even brief subjection to asbestos-rich environments can be enough to cause permanent harm. Some of the most common warning signs include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing, or shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough, or coughing up blood
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

Of course, many of these symptoms can be confused with those of significantly less severe illnesses such as an annoying or persistent cough. However minor your symptoms may appear, if there is a chance that you may have been exposed to asbestos at any point in your life, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Fatal Diseases

Mesothelioma is one of the most common conditions resulting from the inhalation of asbestos fibres. This fatal disease is a form of cancer which takes root in the protective lining of a victim’s internal organs. Often, this occurs in the outer lining of the lungs, although it’s also commonly found to affect the heart. Asbestosis is another common killer, characterised by scarring and inflammation of the lungs.

It can take 20-50 years for the effects of asbestos exposure to take hold, but the resultant diseases are highly degenerative, and can kill in a matter of months, so it is vital to act quickly. Not only will this increase your chance of effective treatment, but it also enables you to take action to provide for your loved ones if the worst should happen.

asbestos sheeting

Consider all possibilities

Asbestos was so widely used in decades gone by that you might not immediately realise that you’re at risk. Its flame retardant properties and resistance to water, chemicals and electricity saw it used in the construction industry for almost 200 years, and in one case a primary school teacher even recalled using asbestos pinboards in a number of Lincolnshire classrooms.

As it’s the dust and detached fibres of asbestos that are responsible for the deadly consequences, it’s easy to see how great a danger such a pinboard could be. The teacher died of mesothelioma after battling the illness for three years, and it’s likely that those children she taught may also develop symptoms of exposure.

It’s Not Too Late To Seek Assistance

Even if you are no longer employed in the position which resulted in your exposure, you can still seek support. In fact, even if you cannot trace your former employer, it’s still possible to receive remuneration for the harm you have suffered.

While this cannot make up for the difficulties of living with an asbestos-related illness, it may help to reduce the financial burden of your condition. It’s also possible for family members to make a claim if they have lost a loved one to the effects of asbestos exposure.

Where Should You Start?

Of course, if you suspect your health has been affected by your work, you may feel unsure where to turn, and what to do next. Loved ones may be keen for you to take legal action, but the prospect of pursuing a compensation claim can seem overwhelming when you’re trying to focus on your health.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of support and advice available for victims of asbestos exposure, and their families. If you feel you may be at risk, this guide to asbestos related diseases might be able answer some of your questions, and for a more in-depth explanation on detecting industrial diseases and the types of compensation, you can also download this free guide - When Work Causes Illness.

Alan Jolliffe is the Senior Litigation Executive at IBB Claims, specialising in cases of Industrial Disease and Personal Injury.

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