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An overview of asbestosis

Asbestos is a naturally occurring, fibrous mineral. During the 1970s, asbestos was favoured because of its strength and heat resistance and was used as insulation for pipes and tanks.

While dormant asbestos is relatively safe, once any materials containing asbestos are damaged and the asbestos dust is disturbed, the fibres are released into the air where they can be easily inhaled.

What is asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a chronic, progressive disease triggered by the inhalation of tiny asbestos particles which penetrate the tissue of the lungs. This triggers an inflammatory reaction and the body's white blood cells try to set up a defence. But, the asbestos fibres are usually resistant to this attack and destroy the white blood cells which results in further inflammation. This causes scarring to the lung tissue (fibrosis) and makes breathing increasingly difficult.

What is mesothelioma?

This is a fatal cancer that is caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma can develop in the membrane that lines the outside of the lung (pleura) where it can cause shortness of breath and chest pain. It can also occur in the lining of the abdominal wall (peritoneum) and cause intestinal obstruction.

Risk factors

Blue and brown asbestos, the types most likely to cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, have been banned in the UK since 1985.

However, asbestos-related lung diseases are on the rise. The rate of death by mesothelioma has increased by 70% from 1992 to 2006.

According to a study commissioned by the British Thoracic Society, lung diseases such as asbestosis kill more people in the UK than in most other European countries.

It is thought that those exposed to higher levels of asbestos over longer time periods are at greater risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. Essentially, those that are exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, especially those that work in the building or demolition industry, are at more risk.

As asbestos fibres can be carried on clothing, the families of these workers are also at risk. Specifically, there have been many recent reports about the wives of workers who have contracted asbestosis as a result of washing their husband's work overalls.

In fact, women are more likely than men to die of occupational lung diseases such as mesothelioma and scarring lung diseases such as asbestosis.

Asbestosis symptoms

The main signs and symptoms of asbestosis include:

Asbestosis diagnosis

The effects of asbestos can lie undetected for up to 50 years, with many sufferers not recognising the symptoms until between 25 and 40 years after exposure to asbestos dust. Therefore, those that have been exposed to asbestos dust are advised to have regular check-ups. A chest X-ray or lung function test may be used to diagnose asbestosis.

Asbestosis treatment and prevention

Asbestosis is an incurable disease but there are some treatments that can be prescribed to relieve the symptoms:

To prevent symptoms worsening, further exposure to asbestos should be avoided. Asbestosis sufferers should also quit smoking and make sure they have flu and pneumococcal vaccinations as they are vulnerable to chest infections.

Making a personal injury claim for asbestosis today

If you are suffering from asbestos or have lost a relative to an asbestos-related disease then you may be eligible to make a personal injury compensation claim.

Our personal injury solicitors are highly experienced with asbestosis cases and will talk you through the process, offering free legal advice along the way.

You can claim for the pain and suffering you have experienced as a result of your disease and recover any medical costs that you have incurred. Read more about what can be claimed for.

We offer a no win, no fee service. This means that our clients donít pay a penny in up front costs. Whatís more, if you lose your case, you wonít pay anything at all. No win, no fee, is exactly what it sounds like.

All you have to do to start a personal injury claim for asbestosis is call our friendly claim team on 0800 197 32 32.