People suffering from asbestos-related lung cancer could finally get the compensation they rightfully deserve if a simple change in the law is made.
In a recent article in Insurance Post, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers explained what a change could mean.
Currently, those affected by asbestos-related lung cancer face the daunting task of tracking down all their past employers responsible for their exposure to receive full compensation. Time is not on their side, and sometimes, this task proves impossible, as highlighted by Daniel Easton, a member of APIL’s executive committee.
In contrast, victims of mesothelioma only need to identify one former employer responsible for their exposure to receive full compensation. Daniel points out that altering the law to allow asbestos-related lung cancer victims to claim in a similar manner to mesothelioma victims would be a simple and cost-effective solution.
He explains that asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma are so alike that even expert pathology evidence may struggle to tell them apart. Yet, the legal treatment of individuals with these nearly identical diseases differs significantly.
APIL is actively collaborating with the Asbestos Victims Support Group Forum to change the law and put an end to the current system of ‘apportionment’ of compensation among liable employers. They discussed it at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety, with Martin Docherty-Hughes MP from the SNP advocating for a parliamentary debate.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that various industries used for its heat-resistant and insulating properties. Trades commonly used it in construction materials, such as insulation, roofing, and flooring, as well as in automotive parts and textiles. It gained popularity in the early to mid-20th century due to its versatility and affordability and is prevalent in many public buildings, including schools and hospitals.
What are the dangers?
We now know it to be extremely hazardous. When asbestos-containing materials move or deteriorate over time, they release tiny, airborne fibres that can be inhaled or ingested. These microscopic fibres can become lodged in the lungs, leading to serious health issues.
If you suspect you have come into contact with it or have been exposed to its fibres, it’s essential to take immediate precautions to minimise the risk to your health.
Exposure is a known cause of several debilitating and often fatal diseases, including:
Mesothelioma: This is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs, although it can also affect the abdomen and heart.
Lung cancer: exposure significantly increases the risk of developing lung cancer, particularly in individuals who smoke.
Asbestosis: This is a chronic lung disease that results from prolonged exposure to asbestos. It causes scarring of the lung tissue, leading to breathing difficulties and decreased lung function.
Other respiratory issues: Exposure can also lead to non-cancerous respiratory problems, including pleural plaques (thickening of the lung lining) and pleural effusion (accumulation of fluid around the lungs).
Due to the severe health risks associated with exposure, its use in most products has been heavily restricted or banned in many countries. However, because it was so commonly used in the past, individuals who worked in certain industries or lived in older homes may still be at risk of exposure.
If someone has been exposed to asbestos and developed asbestos-related health problems, they may have legal grounds to seek compensation from the responsible parties, such as employers or manufacturers of asbestos-containing products.
What if you suspect asbestos is present?
Proceed with caution as exposure can be hazardous to your health. If you suspect that asbestos may be present in your home or workplace, consider following these steps:
Hire a professional
The safest and most reliable way to check for asbestos is to hire a licensed asbestos inspector or abatement professional. These individuals have the necessary training and equipment to collect and analyse samples safely. They can also assess the condition of asbestos-containing materials and recommend appropriate actions.
Consult building records
Review any available building records or documents that may indicate the presence of asbestos-containing materials. Previous inspections, construction documents, or renovation records may contain valuable information.
Conduct a visual inspection of your property to identify potential asbestos-containing materials. Keep in mind that it was commonly used in older buildings (typically constructed before the 1980s) for insulation, roofing, flooring, and textured wall or ceiling materials. Some common areas to check include:
- Insulation around pipes and boilers
- Popcorn or textured ceiling coatings
- Floor tiles, especially in basements and kitchens
- Roofing materials, including shingles and siding
If you encounter any materials that you suspect may contain asbestos, do not touch, disturb, or attempt to remove them. The fibres are hazardous when released into the air. Avoid drilling, cutting, sanding, or breaking materials that may contain asbestos.
Remember that it is dangerous when disturbed, so it’s crucial to exercise caution and prioritise safety at all stages of the process. If you are unsure about whether it is present or how to handle it, seek guidance from a licensed professional.
What if I have been in contact?
If you suspect you have been exposed to asbestos fibres, it’s essential to take immediate precautions to minimise the risk to your health.
Limit further exposure
Move away from the source immediately. Avoid disturbing or touching any materials that may contain asbestos. If your clothing or personal items have been in contact with asbestos, remove them carefully and place them in a sealed plastic bag. Do not shake or dust off the clothing, as this can release the fibres into the air.
Do not attempt to clean, dust, or vacuum any areas or items that may be contaminated.
Shower with soap and water to remove any fibres from your skin and hair. Do this as soon as possible after exposure. Be sure to wash your hands and face, including under your nails.
Get medical attention
If you believe you have been exposed to a significant amount of asbestos or if you experience any symptoms such as shortness of breath, persistent coughing, chest pain, or other respiratory issues, seek medical attention promptly.
Inform your employer
If you were exposed in the workplace, report the incident to your employer and follow their procedures for reporting workplace hazards. In cases of environmental exposure (e.g., in public buildings or schools), notify the appropriate authorities or building management so they can address the issue.
Consult a professional
If you suspect that your home or workplace contains asbestos-containing materials or if you’ve been exposed in a residential setting, consult with a licensed asbestos professional to assess the situation and determine if remediation or abatement is necessary.
Get legal help
An experienced personal injury solicitor, such as NV Legal, can help navigate the complex legal process associated with asbestos-related claims.
If you would like further information on any of the issues covered contact us for a FREE no-obligation consultation. A solicitor will answer your query.
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