Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was used frequently in the mining, construction and shipbuilding industries during the 1960s and 70s. It was used because of its non-flammable, flexible and low heat conducting properties.
Despite its wide use, asbestos is very dangerous due to the fact it is comprise of millions of long, thin fibres which can be inhaled into the lungs. This causes a number of diseases which result in around 4,000 deaths each year.
Types of asbestos
Also known as crocidolite, blue asbestos was banned in the UK in 1985. It was primarily used in the building industry to create asbestos cement products.
Also banned in 1985, brown asbestos is known as amosite. This was used in the building industry, primarily for insulation and as a fire retardant thermal insulator in ceiling tiles.
Chrysotile, more commonly known as white asbestos, was banned in the UK in 1999. This was used in the textile industry as it could be woven into fabric. It was also used as a component of corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets.
Asbestos causes four main diseases, which differ in severity.
- Mesothelioma, which is always terminal
- Lung cancer, which can be treated but is sometimes terminal
- Asbestosis, which causes lungs to lose their elasticity and not function correctly. It is not always fatal but can be extremely debilitating
- Pleural thickening, which causes breathing to be restricted as the expansion of the lungs is restricted
The vast majority of cases will not develop until many years after the exposure to asbestos. The time limit for making a claim in three years from the date you became aware of the illness or the date of the death of someone who has died from an asbestos related disease.
If you have been exposed to asbestos by several different employers, they will be jointly liable for your claim.