Asbestos diseases – still a silent killer

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In a recent newspaper report, MP David Morris warned that asbestos diseases account for some 10,000 deaths per year.

Despite this staggering figure, asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma, which in most cases, is caused by exposure to asbestos, receives very little press attention.

As COVID-19 (or coronavirus) sweeps across the world and quite rightly, demands a global response on an unprecedented scale, it has raised questions about how governments respond to other public health crises.

When the immediate danger from the virus is over, it is important not to forget other serious threats to people’s lives, such as asbestos disease.

What is asbestos disease?

Asbestos-related diseases are caused by inhaling asbestos fibres and dust. These tiny particles become trapped in the lungs causing inflammation and scarring and can lead to serious, life-threatening diseases, such as mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer. Asbestos disease can take many years (sometimes decades) to develop. The symptoms may include breathlessness, coughing and fatigue.

Why does asbestos disease not get more attention?

In his report, David Morris argues that asbestos-related diseases receive little press attention because unlike a rapidly spreading epidemic, such as COVID-19, asbestos diseases are slow to develop. It can sometimes take between 20 and 50 years for an asbestos-related disease to emerge. This time delay means that people are less concerned about the dangers of asbestos because there is no imminent threat and historically, health and safety precautions have been inadequate as a result. And yet, asbestos disease has not gone away and is still a slow and silent killer, threatening the lives of thousands of people.

How many people are diagnosed with asbestos disease?

More than 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer, mainly affecting the lining of the lungs, in the UK every year. To date, there have been tens of thousands of deaths from mesothelioma and the numbers continue to rise each year. The overall total number of asbestos-related deaths will be significantly higher.

What industry sectors used asbestos?

Despite asbestos being banned in the UK in 1999, it continues to have life-long, devastating impact on those who have been exposed. Most commonly, asbestos has affected people who worked within the ship building, construction, and manufacturing sectors between the 1930s and 1980s. However, asbestos was also used extensively as a building material in schools, hospitals, council buildings and other workplaces, which means many more people from all walks of life may have been exposed to asbestos.

What should I do if I am diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease?

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, such as asbestosis, pleural thickening, asbestos-related lung cancer, or mesothelioma, it is important to contact a specialist asbestos disease solicitor. They can offer you expert legal advice and support and explain how you may be able to make a claim for compensation.
A claim for compensation can also be made if you have a family member who has died due to an asbestos-related disease.

Contact Novum Law’s specialist asbestos team

If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, get in touch with our specialist asbestos team for a free, no-obligation chat.
To learn more, contact Novum Law on Freephone: 0800 884 0777 or email

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