The world has made tremendous progress in the fight against asbestos exposure. Global asbestos production fell from 2.1 million tons in 2012 to 1.4 million tons in 2015. Most countries around the world (except the US) have criminalised the use of the material in the construction of edifices. Countless studies have found an undeniable link between asbestos exposure and ensuing contraction of diseases such as mesothelioma.
But despite the overwhelming consensus that asbestos is harmful for one’s health, more than 2 million tons of asbestos are consumed each year throughout the world. In the UK, use of asbestos based material was banned in the year 1999.
However, in 2017 alone there were 2,523 deaths from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the organs caused almost exclusively by the inhalation of asbestos fibres.
While mesothelioma is undoubtedly the most recognisable of the illnesses that can arise, there exists a slew of various debilitations that can be caused by labouring around asbestos based materials.
Whilst obviously deriving its namesake from the malignant material, Asbestosis is long term inflammatory disease causing scarring of the lungs due to asbestos fibres. How it is contracted is the subtle and constant influx of asbestos into the lungs as it slowly builds into a layer. The inflammation builds and leads to symptoms recognized by shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, and chest tightness. Over time, this condition leads to complications such as lung cancer, pulmonary heart disease, and of course, mesothelioma.
Most widely known due to barrister commercial airings, Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs (known as the mesothelium). The most common area affected is the lining of the lungs and chest wall. Less commonly the lining of the abdomen and rarely the sac surrounding the heart, or the sac surrounding the testis may be affected. Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma may include shortness of breath due to fluid around the lung, a swollen abdomen, chest wall pain, cough, feeling tired, and weight loss. Normally, these symptoms arise slowly and unnoticed, until drastic damage is done and it is often too late for treatment. More than 80% of mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos. And despite progress, as of 2013, about 125 million people worldwide have been exposed to asbestos whilst working, inevitably leading to a proliferation of this terrible disease.
It is thought that the majority of exposure occurs on a work site, secondary exposure can occur even from simply washing the clothing of someone who worked with asbestos as the fibres can be present in the lining of shirts and trousers.
There are a number of complications that can arise and lead to different conditions from asbestos exposure. If you or a loved one have come into contact or worked around an edifice lined with asbestos, be sure to get checked and research a possible legal claim you may warrant for compensation.