The UK ban on asbestos has now been in force for almost two decades, but the impact of asbestos-related disease continues to be apparent to this day. Although the production and import of asbestos products ground to a halt following legislation in 1999, asbestos exposure remains a significant threat to public health.
According to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), work-related exposure to asbestos still accounts for the deaths of approximately 5000 Britons each year. Mesothelioma UK‘s Action Mesothelioma Day held annually in the month of July further illustrates the lasting impact of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
In this article, UK law firm Smith Partnership take a closer look at the role played by asbestos in the UK today.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is an umbrella term for a variety of minerals that occur naturally in the environment. Due to asbestos’ fibrous texture and resistance to corrosion, electricity and heat, it has historically been used for a variety of applications. One of the most common examples of this is its widespread usage as insulation within residential and industrial buildings.
Concern regarding the impact of asbestos on public health meant that two of the three main types of asbestos, amosite and crocidolite (also known as brown and blue asbestos respectively) were banned for use as early as 1985, whilst chrysotile (white asbestos) followed suit in 1999. Due to the sheer extent of its previous usage, however, asbestos is nonetheless likely to be present in many properties built prior to the year 2000.
Common Exposures to Asbestos
Although there are several different ways in which a person may come into contact with asbestos, exposure that occurs in the work environment usually referred to as occupational exposure is the most common. Examples of areas in which workers may be particularly at risk of exposure include:
- Power Plants
Mesothelioma & The Consequences of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos exposure has been linked to serious health risks resulting from the inhalation of asbestos fibres, including various types of cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. Mesothelioma an aggressive form of cancer that typically affects the lungs but may also affect other major organs is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure.
In excess of 2,600 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma annually. In the absence of a cure, considerable efforts are focused on research and treatment, with initiatives such as Action Mesothelioma Day and Mesothelioma Awareness Day helping to bring attention to the ongoing impact of asbestos-related disease.
What Steps Can Be Taken Following Exposure?
Getting specialist medical treatment is the main priority for those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease. Depending on the circumstances, those affected may also be able to claim compensation for asbestos exposure.
Asbestos-related illness often has significant consequences for those affected. Asbestos claims are aimed at financially compensating those who have suffered as a result of their exposure, offering valuable support in what can be a difficult time.
The Role of Asbestos Claims
Many people suffering from an asbestos-related illness as a result of their occupation choose to pursue compensation from a former employer. Given the legal aspects involved with bringing a claim, this is usually done alongside a solicitor with experience in dealing with cases relating to asbestos.
Compensation claims of this kind are subject to a number of legal requirements. In order to be successful, the claim must be made within a period of three years following diagnosis. Furthermore, it must also be proven that the relevant medical condition has been caused either due to negligence or a breach of statutory duty on the part of the employer.
It’s often possible to claim compensation for asbestos in cases where the former employer has gone out of business, and family members may also be able to pursue a claim on behalf of a loved one. Whatever the case, claims of this kind can make a valuable contribution to the lives of those coming to terms with an illness caused by asbestos exposure.
The Lasting Impact of Asbestos
Although the long-standing ban on asbestos has played an important role in reducing the number of people affected by a related illness, asbestos continues to have a lasting impact on our society today. Employers, the healthcare sector and legal professionals will play a major role in reducing its impact further in the years and decades to come.