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Asbestos exposure – recognising the symptoms

Asbestos use in building work is old news. However, sadly with this material – which was widely used in a range of industries and buildings from schools to residential properties, offices to warehouses from the 1940’s onwards, the symptoms of asbestos exposure often only manifest themselves several decades later.

Only banned as recently as 1999, asbestos was a very popular building material because it provided good insulation and also served as an effective form of fire protection.

It was used in a range of areas within buildings from ceiling tiles to roofing felt, pipe and boiler insulation to wall cladding. Asbestos can be present in many areas of a property. Most people are exposed as a result of their work.

The good news is that it is only when the material is disturbed by any intrusive action, which can be as simple as doing a spot of DIY, that the dust particles are released and, if inhaled, can cause mesothelioma which is a cancer of the lining of the lung.

There are around 2,000 – 2,500 cases of mesothelioma in the UK each year and symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain and abdominal swelling. Other conditions related to asbestos exposure include asbestosis, diffuse pleural thickening and lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Symptoms of asbestos exposure often do not appear until 30 – 40 years after exposure and so those most at risk will now be aged between 50 – 70 years old and many will have been exposed to asbestos in their workplace. Exposure often goes unnoticed, a recent example was a retired postal worker who had minimal exposure to asbestos during his working life but he sadly developed this illness many years later as a result.

A landmark UK Supreme Court ruling in March 2012 placed asbestos exposure in the spotlight. The Court ruled that relatives of workers who died of mesothelioma could make claims against insurers going back to when the exposure first occurred, rather than from when the symptoms presented themselves.

This can be important as many companies that were responsible for the asbestos exposure no longer exist, but if the relevant insurer can be traced from the time of exposure, a claim can still be made.

It is now easier to trace the insurers of any original employers through the Employer’s Liability Tracing Office (ELTO) so that even if a previous employer no longer exists, has moved premises or has been taken over by another company it may still be possible to claim against the insurer. If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural thickening or asbestos related lung cancer, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

There is more help available now for mesothelioma victims than ever before including a new scheme which allows those diagnosed with the disease after 25th July 2012, and claiming against a business which wasn’t insured or where insurers cannot be traced, to still obtain compensation.

You can speak to a member of our team on 0161 835 8832. Alternatively, please email a summary of your potential claim and contact details to

Find out more about our Occupational Disease department
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