The link between asbestos and lung cancer

Recent studies have shown direct links between historical exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis of lung cancer, and that the number of people whose diagnosis is directly related to asbestos is rising.

In fact, in the United Kingdom alone, nearly 2,500 people died in 2020 as a result of asbestos-related lung cancer. Once of the main concerns in the rising trend of this illness, is its unpredictable nature. Lung cancer may develop anywhere between 15-35 years after asbestos exposure, meaning that people are living with a guaranteed future diagnosis without even knowing it.

In this article, we will take a closer look at asbestos, what it is used in, why it is so damaging and how, if you have been exposed to asbestos, you can make a legal claim.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre that has been historically present in many of the raw materials used in construction. Until the late 1990’s, there were no building regulations that prohibited the use of this asbestos.

There are three commonly used types of asbestos fibre. They are blue (crocidolite), brown (amosite) and white (chrysolite). All of them were used significantly in construction in the United Kingdom through the latter half of the 20th century, due to their abundance, versatility, and value. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that research into the damaging properties of asbestos came into light. It then took almost 30 years for the use of these fibres to be banned.

What is asbestos used in?

In the past, many materials have contained high quantities of asbestos. While some African and Asian countries continue to use these fibres, they have been almost entirely banned in Europe, Australia, and other nations.

The most common previous uses of asbestos in the United Kingdom have been in drywall and plaster, vinyl floor tiles and sheeting, roofing felts and shingles and insulation. However, it was also used in transite panels and countertops, fireproofing, caulk, gaskets, brake pads, stage curtains, fire doors, pipe insulation and even dental cast linings.

Its former uses should be of particular concern to former employees of building or construction companies in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. You may have been exposed to asbestos if this applies to you and this could lead to future health problems.

Many houses in the United Kingdom, especially those built before 2000, may have asbestos within its materials. This should pose very little risk to those living in the properties now. However, if you are completing any kind of renovation work, it is vital that you know what materials could have asbestos in their make-up, as the disturbance of these materials can release the damaging fibres into the air and consequentially, into your lungs.

How does asbestos cause lung cancer?

When a product containing asbestos is disturbed or moved, tiny fibres that are microscopic in size are released into the air. If these fibres are inhaled, they become attached to tissue within your lungs and remain there.

From this point, the asbestos can cause cancer in a number of ways. Firstly, the fibres in your lungs can produce molecules known as free radicals. These molecules can damage DNA, which in turn can allow cancer to develop.

Secondly, asbestos fibres can actually obstruct the cellular processes in your body, which can cause these cells to develop incorrectly, potentially leading to cancer.

Finally, and perhaps most commonly, asbestos can cause inflammation, as the fibres interact with lung tissue. This inflammation causes damage to the cells in the lungs over a period of years, which in turn can eventually produce tumours.

The common symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer are chest pain, coughing more than usual and shortness of breath. If you feel that you have been exposed to asbestos at any point throughout your life, and you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to visit a medical professional so they can offer a clinical diagnosis.

Why choose Waldrons for your asbestos claim?

If you were exposed to asbestos and have later developed an illness related to this exposure, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Our expert team at Waldrons will have a free, no obligation consultation call with you to discuss the finer details of your claim.

Most clients of Waldrons work on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis, meaning that if your compensation claim is unsuccessful, you will not be required to pay any upfront costs or consequential legal fees related to your case.

Contact Waldrons solicitors

Here at Waldrons our team of expert solicitors are on hand to speak to you, get in touch today!

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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Joseph Norton who is an Associate Director and Head of Compensation