Asbestos is a general term for a group of minerals made of microscopic fibres. In the past, it was widely used in construction.
Asbestos can be very dangerous. It does not present a health risk if it is undisturbed, but if material containing asbestos is chipped, drilled, broken or allowed to deteriorate, it can release a fine dust that contains asbestos fibres.
When the dust is breathed in, the asbestos fibres enter the lungs and can gradually damage them over time. For asbestosis to develop, prolonged exposure to relatively high numbers of the fibres is necessary. However, it is not the only factor, as many people avoid getting asbestosis, despite heavy exposure.
Asbestosis is a chronic (long-term) lung condition caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos.
Nowadays, most people who are diagnosed with asbestosis were exposed many years ago, before there were effective controls on exposure to asbestos fibres in the workplace.
There is no cure for asbestosis once it has developed, because it is not possible to reverse the damage to the lungs.
The outlook for asbestosis can vary significantly, depending on the extent of damage to the lungs and whether any other conditions are present.
Asbestosis can get worse over time and severe cases can place a significant strain on a person’s health and shorten their life expectancy, but in many cases the condition progresses very slowly or not at all.
However, people with asbestosis have a higher risk of developing other serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:
- Pleural disease – where the membrane covering the lungs (pleura) becomes thicker, which can further contribute to breathlessness and chest discomfort
- Mesothelioma – a type of cancer that affects the membrane that covers the lungs, heart and gut
- Lung cancer
The company you worked for may have gone out of business. This may not prevent a claim if the relevant Insurers can be traced. If the company has gone out of business and the Insurers cannot be traced then your claim may not succeed.
You should, however, take legal advice as soon as you become aware of, or have been diagnosed with an asbestos illness. If you do not do so and legal proceedings are not issued within three years of your diagnosis, then your claim may fail.