Mesothelioma & Asbestos Compensation Claims

Exposure to asbestos can cause a number of health issues, including mesothelioma – a specific type of cancer, commonly found in the lungs.

Many people diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos while working in the construction industry and other related occupations and may be entitled to claim compensation as a result.

However, asbestos related illnesses are not restricted to those who working with asbestos, but also those who were unknowingly exposed to asbestos fibres during the course of their work, such as school staff and others who have worked in public buildings, many of which contain asbestos.

Mesothelioma is a life changing disease, with a 5-year survival rate of only around 5% in men and 10% in women. If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to think about how you will afford the care you need and how you will provide for your family if and when you are no longer able to do so.

If you or a loved one are suffering from mesothelioma as a result of work-related exposure to asbestos, you may be entitled to make an asbestos compensation claim against the employer, or othersresponsible for your exposure.

IBB Claims highly experienced personal injury lawyers have a history of successfully pursuing mesothelioma compensation claims for clients, so please get in touch to find out more about starting a claim.

Contact us today to see how we can help you obtain compensation for asbestos exposure. Call 0333 123 9099 or email enquiries@ibbclaims.co.uk.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that normally starts in the tissue covering the lungs (the pleura). Less commonly, it can begin in the tissue around the digestive organs (the peritoneum). Currently around 2,700 people a year are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK and the disease has a low survival rate (around 50% 1-year survival rate, 5-10% 5-year survival rate).

Most cases of pleural mesothelioma are caused by asbestos exposure and many cases of peritoneal mesothelioma are also caused by exposure to asbestos. This exposure most commonly happens in the workplace, with 90% of men and 80% of women with the disease having been in contact with asbestos.

Mesothelioma is much more common in men than women, with around 5 times more male sufferers than female. This is most likely due to the fact that more men have traditionally worked in industries where they were likely to come into contact with asbestos. However, this statistic may change as people, from other occupations, are diagnosed with asbestos related diseases.

Symptoms of mesothelioma

In the early stages of mesothelioma, there may be few or no symptoms. In the later stages, where the cancer has begun to grow, the following symptoms may be experienced:

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent coughing
  • A hoarse voice
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing weight
  • High temperature and sweating

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing weight
  • Constipation or diarrhoea

Very helpful from start to finish. Kept me informed on all developments. Easy to contact if I had a query. [They] explained everything in easy to understand language, and worked to [their]  best ability to give me the best result.

-  Mrs S. Bryant, Reading, Mesothelioma client

The dangers of working with asbestos

From the 1800s onwards, asbestos in its various forms started to be used extensively throughout British industry. Its use became widespread because of its many useful physical properties, including its resistance to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage and, above all, its affordability.

Asbestos’s resistance to heat and fire led to it being used as a form of electrical insulation for hotplate wiring and in building insulation. The fibres were also commonly mixed with cement to create asbestos cement, which was used to lag pipe work or woven into fabric or mats. The material’s flexibility made asbestos use widespread and asbestos in its various forms can be found in many products, including brake pads and linings, gaskets and fire-proof clothing.

The earliest reports in Britain of the possible consequences and damage to health resulting from asbestos exposure began to appear in the late 19th Century. The annual reports of the Chief Inspector of Factories recorded as early as 1898 that asbestos had "easily demonstrated" health risks. The first official diagnosis of asbestosis was made in 1924.

However, the true extent of the dangers associated with asbestos, and in particular the dangers that asbestos particles and dust can have on the respiratory system, only really came to light in the 1960s and 70s.

UK asbestos regulations

The first laws prohibiting asbestos use were introduced in 1985, when importing blue and brown asbestos into the UK was banned. In 1992 some uses of white asbestos (traditionally considered safer than other forms) were also banned. In 1999 all types of asbestos were finally banned in the UK.

Although asbestos is no longer used, there is no requirement to remove it from existing buildings. As asbestos has been used in the building trade and other industries for over 200 years, there are still large amounts of the material in many UK buildings, which means that it continues to pose a very real threat to people’s heath today.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 specify who is responsible for managing asbestos in work environments. The person with this responsibility is known as the “dutyholder”. They will usually be the owner of the affected building, the tenant or the person otherwise in control of the building.

The dutyholder’s responsibilities include:

  • Taking all reasonable measures to find out if there are asbestos-containing materials in non-domestic premises.
  • Where asbestos is present, determining where it is, how much there is and what condition it is in.
  • Creating and keeping up-to-date a record of this information.
  • Assessing the risk of asbestos exposure for anyone entering the building.
  • Creating a risk management plan for anyone who may be exposed to the asbestos.
  • Taking all necessary steps to put the risk management plan into effect, including making sure anyone at potential risk of exposure knows the location and condition of the asbestos and what they need to do to minimise their risk.

If asbestos-containing materials need to be removed from a building, this should normally be done by a licensed asbestos contractor or a trained asbestos contractor, depending on the exact nature of the building and work being carried out.

How asbestos causes mesothelioma

Asbestos is made up of tiny fibres that are invisible to the naked eye. These fibres can be breathed in by anyone exposed to asbestos. The fibres can then become lodged in the pleura lining around the lungs, or the peritoneum lining around the digestive organs (if they are swallowed).

The body is incapable of breaking down the fibres, but they still trigger an immune response anyway. The natural chemicals your immune system releases to break down foreign objects do not work on the asbestos fibres and instead these chemicals end up damaging the pleural or peritoneal lining (depending on where the fibres are lodged). Over time, this leads to genetic mutations, which can ultimately cause cells to become cancerous.

Asbestos generally only becomes a problem when it is disturbed and damaged. This can lead to the microscopic fibres being released and becoming airborne. The asbestos can then be inhaled by anyone in the vicinity who is not wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Fibres can also become lodged in people’s clothing and then released again at a later point. This means that indirect exposure to asbestos fibres can occur to anyone who comes into contact with someone who has been working with asbestos, if the correct precautions are not taken.

Asbestos fibres cannot be removed once they are lodged in a person’s body, meaning they can remain within a person’s respiratory system or the lining around their digestive organs for years before any symptoms develop.

In the past, the dangers of asbestos exposure were not as well understood, or always taken as seriously as they should be by many workers and employers. This means the correct precautions were not always taken by employers to ensure that their employees were protected against the dangers of asbestos. As a result, many people continue to develop asbestos-related illnesses today due to exposure that happened decades ago.

Where a link can be proved between the asbestos-related illness and exposure whilst working, and it can be shown that an employer failed in their duty of care towards their employees, it may be possible for the sufferer to claim mesothelioma compensation. This applies even if they have not worked for the relevant employer for many years.

Treatment for mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is generally very hard to treat, especially as it is often not found until the disease is quite advanced. The exact treatment offered will normally depend on where the cancer is located, how advanced it is and the general health and fitness of the patient.

Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with many patients receiving some combination of all of these treatments. Unfortunately, there is no cure for mesothelioma, so the goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and extend the life of the patient for as long as possible.

Most patients will end up needing some degree of palliative care when they reach the advanced stages of mesothelioma. This commonly includes helping them to manage symptoms such as pain, breathing difficulties and weight loss to keep the patient as comfortable as possible.

Who is at risk from mesothelioma?

Whilst exposure to asbestos is often related to the construction industry, the material was used in an enormous range of products and industries, before being banned.

Mesothelioma is most commonly found in men who worked in manufacturing products containing asbestos and those who  regularly used those products, including in the construction and engineering industries. Plate metal workers in the ship building industry and carpenters are some of the highest risk professions.

The risks appear to be higher for people exposed to asbestos when they were aged under 30. Research shows around 6% of British men born in the 1940s who spent 10 or more years working as carpenters before they turned 30 develop mesothelioma.

Other high risk professions include:

  • Insulation workers
  • Plumbers
  • Miners
  • Textiles workers
  • Gas fitters
  • Carpet fitters

As asbestos use fell sharply from the mid-1970s, when the law and public understanding about the dangers of expose began to change, mesothelioma is most common among those who worked in high-risk professions before this time. However, we are now seeing others, who did not work directly with asbestos, suffering.   Most notably those working in our schools may have been exposed to asbestos and there is now  a campaign to have asbestos removed, to protect children and staff. Although there has been a focus on people working in education, as many public buildings contain asbestos, the risk is much wider.

Other asbestos-related diseases

Mesothelioma is just one of the diseases that can be caused by exposure to asbestos fibres. Many of these diseases can cause serious health complications and even be fatal.

Some of the most common asbestos-related diseases, besides mesothelioma, include:

  • Asbestos-related lung cancer
  • Asbestosis – a form of pneumoconiosis (a general term for a type of damage done to the interior of the lung by inhaled dust)
  • Pleural thickening – Asbestos-related pleural thickening that occurs when the lining of the lung (the pleura) hardens as a reaction to asbestos fibres that have found their way into the lung
  • Pleural plaques – Asbestos-related pleural plaques that are small areas of localised thickening or scarring of the lining of the lung

As with mesothelioma, it is not unusual for the symptoms of these asbestos-related illnesses to be slow to develop, often not becoming apparently until decades after exposure.

Making a mesothelioma compensation claim

If you, or a member of your family, have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or any of the above asbestos-related conditions, IBB Claims’ expert personal injury lawyers may be able to help you.

If you have worked with, or come into contact with, asbestos due to your employment, or the employment of someone close to you, you may well be entitled to make a mesothelioma compensation claim.  Our specialist asbestos claims solicitors will be happy to talk through your claim with you and then give you a realistic idea of how likely you are to succeed in your claim and the level of compensation you are likely to receive.

We understand that dealing with a diagnosis of mesothelioma, or any other asbestos-related disease , can be extremely upsetting and confusing. Our solicitors will work with you sensitively to make sure you are completely clear about your options and what to expect.  We will take all necessary steps to pursue your claim and protect your interests. That way, you can get the financial support you need for your care and to look after your loved ones.

Contact us today to see how we can help you obtain the compensation for mesothelomia due to asbestos exposure that you deserve. Call 0333 123 9099 or email enquiries@ibbclaims.co.uk.