The British Lung Foundation (BLF) and many other charities throughout the UK devote considerable time raising awareness of the terminal asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma. This is an extremely aggressive cancer primarily caused by exposure to asbestos fibres and usually affects the lining of the lung, although can also affect the lining of the abdomen. Symptoms usually manifest some 20 – 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos.
Estimates from the BLF suggest that in the next 30 years, 60,000 people may die as a result of mesothelioma. It can be difficult to place national statistics in a local context. However, the Health & Safety Executive of Northern Ireland has examined the years 2009 – 2014 and, during this period, the rate of mesothelioma remained stubbornly high, ranging from 39 to 51 deaths per year.
Northern Ireland, with its extensive history of shipbuilding, is unlikely to escape the legacy of industrial asbestos use for some time yet. Whilst we live in an age where Health & Safety considerations are rightly paramount, it is easy to forget this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Up to and including the 1980s, many workers throughout heavy industry (including power stations, ship building and large factories) in Northern Ireland were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis in the workplace (primary exposure) without any or adequate protective equipment and without proper or effective warning of the dangers posed by exposure to asbestos. Moreover, many workers may have inadvertently exposed their families to the dangers of asbestos fibres by bringing their asbestos laden overalls home to be cleaned (secondary exposure). Asbestos usage was not confined to heavy industry but has also been discovered in school buildings and pre-fabricated social housing.
The modern world has a short attention span, and viewed in this context, historical asbestos exposure might be forgotten. However, it is worth thinking for a moment that, as mentioned above, until comparatively recently, the men and women who built our ships, factories and railways did so in conditions that were fraught with risk and tragically they continue to pay the price.
Whilst compensation for mesothelioma and other asbestos related conditions, such as asbestosis, diffuse pleural thickening and pleural plaques can be secured from negligent employers, if insurance cover can be identified, the Government also operates a compensation scheme in the event that a personal claim is not possible (for example, if insurance cover was not in place and the negligent employer is no longer in existence).
Worthingtons Solicitors have considerable experience in pursuing asbestos litigation, and will gladly provide expert legal advice so that cases are dealt with as quickly as possible, in a sensitive and professional manner. If you or a member of your family have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or any other asbestos related condition, please contact Worthingtons for free initial advice.
Jonathan Duncan is an Associate Partner in the Asbestos Litigation Department at Worthingtons Solicitors : For advice, please visit our website www.worthingtonslaw.co.uk or contact Jonathan on 028 9181 1538 or 028 9043 4015.