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Overcoming the challenges faced with low exposure asbestos claims

It has become common for some asbestos claims to be defended on the basis that low exposure to the material did not create a foreseeable risk of injury. When we’re dealing with these types of claims, the defendants often argue that they did not breach their duty to the employee whose health has been significantly affected as a result.

Even in circumstances when we have evidence to prove that a client’s illness has in fact been caused by exposure to asbestos during the course of their employment several decades earlier, some defendants will rely on a guidance document called the Technical Data Note 13 (TDN 13) to avert responsibility.

Entitled ‘Standards for asbestos dust concentration for use with the Asbestos Regulations 1969’, the document had no wider use other than serving as guidance for HM factory inspectors.

Many defendants in asbestos claims today still rely on the contents of this guidance note as the basis of their defence arguing that the levels of asbestos present in their premises at the time were below the danger levels set out in TDN 13.

This can be further strengthened if they can provide evidence demonstrating that they took some steps to prevent or mitigate exposure to asbestos – even when in hindsight, these measures were clearly inadequate.

While TDN 13 regularly rears its head in asbestos claims where exposure levels were low by the standards which were thought to be correct at the time, the document was never intended to be used as guidance in these matters for all employers.

In fact, TDN 13 was changed in 1974 to reflect the growing knowledge relating to the hazardous effects of asbestos although a wealth of information about this already existed pre TDN 13. When representing clients who have developed either asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer or pleural thickening, we often find that individual employers will concede that they did have concerns (or should have had concerns) about their employees’ exposure at lower levels than was set out in TDN 13 – even back in the 1960’s.

Evidence can be found in company’s internal memos, trade publications and via the Asbestos Research Council to help tip the balance and win a claim on behalf of a client who has fallen significantly ill due to asbestos exposure some 30 – 40 years earlier.

We’ve successfully concluded many such claims by also scrutinising the exact type of asbestos our client had been exposed to. For example, crocidolite asbestos was thought to be dangerous at a far lower level than other forms – even by TDN 13 standards.

Identifying how often an individual was exposed to asbestos is a crucial point also. Our investigations would involve confirming how often they were exposed as repeated exposure, even at low levels, can be harmful.

While some claims involving low levels of asbestos exposure can be difficult to win, these cases are not insurmountable, particularly if specialist advice is sought from an occupational disease expert rather than a general personal injury lawyer.

Recognising the symptoms of asbestos exposure

Symptoms following exposure to asbestos will often not present themselves until 30 – 40 years later and most individuals who have suffered illness as a result have been those who have been significantly exposed during the course of their work.

If you, or someone you know, may have been exposed to significant quantities of asbestos, the tell-tale signs may include:

• shortness of breath
• a persistent cough
• wheezing
• fatigue
• chest pain
• in more advanced cases, clubbed (swollen) fingertips

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice sooner rather than later. If you are sadly diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural thickening or asbestos related lung cancer, you may be entitled to claim for compensation for your injuries.

Our team of occupational disease specialists have extensive experience in these matters and understand the upset an asbestos related diagnosis can cause both to the individual affected, and their families. Contact a member of our team for sensitive and confidential advice.

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

Written by Jon Andrews. Find out more about Jon here. 

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