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By 1940, scientific studies that suggested a link between asbestos exposure and cancer had been published in medical journals. In 1955, scientists confirmed what had long been suspected - an unmistakable link between ingestion of asbestos fibres and the development of certain forms of lung cancer - what we now know to be Mesothelioma.

Despite the growing body of evidence regarding the serious health problems related to asbestos exposure, manufacturers and others continued to use it.

Even though the manufacturers were probably aware of the potential health risks associated with asbestos exposure, they chose to ignore them.  These same companies also failed to use safer, alternative materials that were being developed.

The victims were workers and their family members who had no knowledge of the possible health risks they faced. The legal claims against the manufacturers and companies responsible for asbestos related cancer were brought as early as 1929. Since that time, asbestos litigation has increased and is set to continue to do so.

Types of asbestos related diseases

Four diseases have been directly associated with asbestos exposure. The duration and intensity of exposure (latency) directly affects the likelihood of contracting these diseases.

Pleural Plaque/Thickening:

This is scarring of the lining of the lung (pleura) indicating that a person has lung damage and is at risk of more serious complications. This condition is not cancerous. Plaques or thickening sometimes impairs lung function by restricting breathing capacity. However, as pleural plaques in themselves do not cause any symptoms, compensation is not available for this condition.


This is a non-cancerous fibrous hardening and scarring of the functional tissue of the lungs. This scarring causes lung impairment and can contribute to heart disease. Symptoms of asbestosis are shortness of breath, coughing and a dry crackling sound while inhaling.

Advanced chronic asbestosis may cause or contribute to cardiac failure. Asbestosis is a slowly progressive disease with a latency period of 15 to 30 years or more.

Lung Cancer:

This is the most common type of cancer found in individuals who have sustained prolonged exposure to asbestos. Lung cancer develops through the lung tissue, invading and obstructing air passages.

While there are many types of lung cancers, those most frequently associated with asbestos exposure are usually found in the lower lobes of the lungs.

The time between exposure to asbestos and the occurrence of lung cancer (latency) is often 20 to 30 years or more. Cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure combine to put such an individual at a much higher risk of lung cancer.


This is an unusual cancer of the thin tissue membranes lining the thoracic and abdominal cavities and surrounding internal organs (including the gastro-intestinal tract).

Most cases of Mesothelioma are associated with asbestos exposure. Some symptoms of Mesothelioma are: shortness of breath, pain in the lower back or side of the chest, coughing, and weight loss.

It often presents initially as pneumonia, and most patients suffer a pleural effusion (fluid between the pleura and the lung tissue) requiring treatment.

The preliminary diagnosis of Mesothelioma is often made from pathology studies of cells contained in this fluid that are done after the fluid is drained.

Mesothelioma is the most insidious of the asbestos-related diseases in that it can affect people who have experienced low or intermittent levels of asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is always fatal, usually within 18 months of diagnosis.

Work environments at risk of asbestos diseases

Listed below are some of the work environments, trades, and locations at which workers were exposed to asbestos:

  • Shipyards (all jobs)
  • Hotels
  • Construction sites (all jobs)
  • Asbestos plant workers
  • Home Improvement (all jobs)
  • Telephone (installation / repair)
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Power Plants
  • Boiler or Engine Rooms
  • Boiler Makers
  • Steamfitters
  • Metal lathers
  • Operational Engineers
  • Electricians
  • Shipyard Workers - including military
  • Military (Navy/Army tank units/Motor repairs) Merchant Marines
  • Firefighters
  • Asbestos workers/insulators/laggers
  • Cement plant workers
  • Steel Workers (plants and construction)
  • Car and other repair shops
  • Loading Docks
  • Heating and Air Conditioning
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Rail Workers
  • Utility Workers/Power Companies
  • Glass factory workers
  • Oil Refinery
  • Chemical Plants
  • Industrial Plants
  • Industrial Painter
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Labourers 

Immediate family members of exposed workers may have also been at risk if they were exposed to asbestos carried home on the work clothing.

Who can make a claim?

  • Individuals injured by asbestos who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease may be eligible to make a claim. Legal action must be taken within 3 years of when you knew (by virtue of a medical diagnosis) or should have known (due to symptoms) of your asbestos disease.
  • The executor of the estate of a person who has died from an asbestos-related disease may be eligible to make a claim. Generally, legal action must be taken within 3 years from the date of death.
  • A family member exposed in a secondary manner (for example, through asbestos fibres brought home on clothes by a parent who worked in an asbestos environment) may also be eligible to make a claim.

Questions about asbestos claims

If you have any concerns about having been working alongside asbestos, call to speak to one of specialist personal injury lawyers today. Bray and Bray has three main offices in Leicestershire, where you can arrange see us at your local office by clicking on the links below: 

Leicester call us on 0116 254 8871.

Hinckley call us on 01455 639 900.

Market Harborough call us on 01858 467 181.

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