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Mesothelioma and Asbestos

Mesothelioma and Asbestos

There is a strong link between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, with the majority of sufferers of this rare form of cancer having had previous prolonged and heavy exposure to asbestos in the workplace.

Mesothelioma is often referred to medically as malignant mesothelioma, and is a rare form of cancer which affects the mesothelium; the lining of the lungs and other organs in the body. Mesothelioma most commonly affects the pleura and is most frequently caused when asbestos fibres are inhaled. It is believed that the long thin asbestos fibres trigger a genetic mutation in the mesothelium which causes the formation of cancerous tumours.

Mesothelioma and asbestos exposure do not only affect the lungs, and it is believed that the swallowing of asbestos dust and fibres can cause mesothelioma to develop in other organs in the body, such as the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity), as well as the pericardium (lining of the heart).

Types of Mesothelioma Linked to Asbestos Exposure

The most common form of mesothelioma affects the lungs, with approximately 20 percent of cases involving the abdominal wall. The remaining cases affect the heart, although extremely rare forms can cause tumours to develop in the testicles. The name of the condition is taken from the location which it affects in the body.

  • Pleural mesothelioma (lungs)
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma (abdomen)
  • Pericardial mesothelioma (heart)

Pleural mesothelioma and asbestos exposure have the strongest link, followed by peritoneal mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 75 percent of all cases and pericardial mesothelioma is exceedingly rare and accounts for less than 5 percent of all occurrences of the disease. The link between pericardial mesothelioma and asbestos is not very well understood, and even less so when other body organs are involved.

Mesothelioma and asbestos exposure accounts for up to 80 percent of all cases of this rare cancer, although exposure to a virus called SV40, certain minerals such as zeolite and radiation from thorium dioxide are also known to cause mesothelioma.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma and Asbestos Diseases

The symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to many other asbestos related diseases, and typically take many years to develop. Mesothelioma and asbestos diseases can take up to 50 years after asbestos exposure before symptoms are displayed. Symptoms of mesothelioma include the following health problems:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pleural effusion (fluid build up between lungs and chest wall)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Anaemia
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chronic non productive cough

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms you should make an appointment to see a doctor immediately, and you should advise the doctor if you have previously been exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma and asbestos exposure are strongly linked, with the inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres the major risk factor in developing this painful and potentially fatal disease.

Professions Commonly Affected by Mesothelioma and Asbestos Disease

Due to the extensive use of asbestos in the building trade up to the late 1970’s, many workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos dust and fibres over a prolonged period of time. Asbestos was used extensively in heavy industry due to its inert properties; such as its resistance to electrical current, heat and abrasion. Asbestos was used in car parts such as clutches and brake discs, drywall, metal sheeting, insulation, pipes, ceramics and even in paint and garden furniture. Asbestos was also used in Kent’s cigarette filters for a short period of time in the 1950’s.

Industries and professions which have the greatest risk of workers developing mesothelioma and asbestos diseases include the following:

  • Shipbuilding
  • Carpentry
  • Metal sheet workers
  • Automotive industry
  • Power stations
  • Manufacture
  • Heavy Industry
  • Telephone engineers
  • Carpenters
  • Construction industry workers

Compensation Claims for Mesothelioma and Asbestos Disease

Compensation claims for mesothelioma and asbestos diseases are possible in the UK when asbestos exposure has been caused by the negligence of an employer, or when there has been a failure in a duty of care which has led to exposure to harmful asbestos fibres or dust.

Although mesothelioma and asbestos exposure go hand in hand, the link between mesothelioma and asbestos was only discovered in the mid 1960’s. Asbestos exposure and respiratory problems had long been associated, and since the late eighteenth century employers have been aware of the dangers. Although the formation of cancerous tumours due to asbestos exposure was not known until the 1960’s, employers had a duty of care to employees to limit exposure to asbestos before the link between mesothelioma and asbestos was known.

Compensation claims for mesothelioma and asbestos disease can be made when an employer — or other third party- has been responsible for causing exposure to asbestos which could have been avoided had better care been taken. Although in most cases mesothelioma victims will be eligible to claim compensation, claims can be problematic due to the long latency period of the disease. It may be difficult to trace the employer or the company’s insurance company in order to make a mesothelioma claim, especially when exposure to asbestos took place many decades previously. As such, a specialist mesothelioma and asbestos disease claims solicitor should always be used to pursue a claim. Claims for mesothelioma and asbestos disease compensation can be longwinded and difficult, and the experience of mesothelioma solicitors can be invaluable in this regard.

Who Can Claim Compensation for Mesothelioma and Asbestos Diseases

Although the highest incidences of mesothelioma occur with asbestos workers, claims for compensation are not limited to those people who have had asbestos exposure at work. Asbestos exposure is possible from the clothing of workers, which was brought into the home. Wives of asbestos workers have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma, and claims for mesothelioma compensation can often be made by the families of workers due to secondary asbestos exposure in the home.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and asbestos exposure is not known, it is still important to speak to a solicitor for advice as it may be possible to make a claim for compensation. Even if it is not possible to claim compensation for mesothelioma and asbestos disease against a previous employer, claims may be possible under the 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme and mesothelioma sufferers may be entitled to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit or may be covered under the Pneumoconiosis Worker’s Compensation Act of 1979.

Time Limit on Claiming Compensation for Mesothelioma and Asbestos Disease

The time limit for claiming compensation for mesothelioma and asbestos diseases is governed by the UK Statute of Limitations. The Statue to Limitation places a three year time limit on making a claim for compensation for mesothelioma, although the time period only commences once the disease has been diagnosed and does not start from the date of asbestos exposure. This is termed the ‘Date of Knowledge’.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma in the past three years it is vital that you seek the advice of a specialist personal injury compensation solicitor who specialises in pursuing claims for mesothelioma and asbestos diseases. The experience of the solicitor will help to ensure that the claims process runs smoothly, that a claim for compensation has the maximum chance of being successful, and the maximum amount of compensation can be claimed for mesothelioma and asbestos disease.