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The Plague of Asbestos, the ‘miracle mineral’

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Once touted as the ‘miracle mineral’ for its strength, resistance to heat and affordability, asbestos was used widely throughout the UK in previous decades across many industries. It was particularly abundant in shipyards, industrial plants and in the construction and insulation of commercial and domestic buildings.

If only we had known then what we know now; asbestos has since caused thousands of deaths in the UK alone and recent figures from the World Health Organisation estimate that more than 107,000 people die each year as a result of lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos.

The Insidious Spread of a Deadly Substance

As well as those that were directly exposed to asbestos after working in the construction or maintenance of buildings, like electricians, decorators and construction workers, there are many others who may not have even had direct contact with the asbestos itself. These include workers in the same building, neighbouring buildings and even the families of those exposed to asbestos.

It only takes exposure to asbestos fibres—which can be carried on clothing from the workplace into the family home—to cause an asbestos related disease.

Asbestos Related Diseases

Asbestos is thought to be the primary cause of mesothelioma, a rare and fatal form of lung disease. Exposure also increases the risk of forms of lung cancer and can cause scarring of the lung tissue known as asbestosis. Even a mild form of asbestosis can be extremely debilitating, causing shortness of breath, chest and abdominal pain and weight loss.

One of the reasons why we are only now hearing about large compensation claims against employers for asbestos exposure in the 60’s and 70’s is that, after initial exposure to the fibres of asbestos, symptoms can take many years to develop and mesothelioma in particular usually takes between 20 and 40 years, but sometimes up to 70 years, to become apparent.

Compensation for Asbestos Harm

Considering its devastating effects, it is understandable that more and more people are now seeking compensation for work-related diseases like asbestosis. In one case, more than 2,000 former employees of Belfast shipyard Harland and Wolff have been paid an average of £30,000 compensation each after suffering asbestos related diseases relating to work at the shipyard.

As the shipyard was previously publically owned, the government is now expecting to pay out £150m in compensation to previous employees of the shipyard.


If you are suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer after exposure to asbestos in your employment, our experienced industrial disease specialists can help you to get the support and compensation that you need. Contact Peter Gourri today by email or telephone 0207 611 4848 for more information on any aspect of asbestos related disease and industrial disease claims.

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