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Asbestos 20 Years On: Still a Present Problem

images shows a crossed box next to the word bannedAsbestos may have been banned in the UK 20 years ago this month, but it continues to have a devastating effect on people’s lives today. In this post, we explore how and why asbestos is still a problem.

The UK Ban on Asbestos

Following a ban in the 1980s on blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos, the Asbestos (Prohibitions) (Amendment) Regulations 1999 came into force on 24 November that year.

Unlike the previous regulations, this amendment included a ban on white (chrysotile) asbestos – which was traditionally considered less lethal than other forms – and prohibited the importation, supply and use of ALL types of asbestos in the UK.

Is Asbestos Still an Issue in the UK Today?

Despite being prohibited for almost two decades, asbestos still remains a threat to health today – it is the greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK.

Statistics published in 2019 via the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that annual asbestos deaths in the UK have been growing over the past 50 years. And, according to HSE, the estimate is that there are “over 5,000 asbestos-related disease deaths per year currently, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis,” and there’s no sign of the numbers decreasing.

It’s thought that the number of people affected by exposure to asbestos still hasn’t reached its peak; it’s anticipated that the number will continue rising until at least 2020. That’s because many UK factories and public buildings built before 1980 used asbestos as a building material. The threat today is exposure to asbestos fibres from these materials.

What Are the Effects of Asbestos Exposure?

The inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to an asbestos-related disease, but the symptoms of this disease can take decades to develop. 

Asbestos exposure can lead to a number of asbestos-related diseases, including:

  • Mesothelioma: commonly known as ‘meso’, this is a fatal disease caused by breathing in asbestos fibres. More than 2,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma annually.
  • Pleural thickening: this is a potentially disabling condition which affects the lungs and causes shortness of breath and chest tightness. It can make sufferers more susceptible to other asbestos-related diseases.
  • Lung cancer: Breathing in asbestos fibres can increase the risk of a person developing lung cancer.
  • Asbestosis: This lung disease is commonly caused by prolonged, excessive periods of asbestos exposure. The exposure causes scarring and thickening of lung tissues, causing the lungs to lose elasticity and full-functionality.

The prognosis and the treatment available to victims of asbestos exposure varies depending on the type of asbestos disease.

What Support is Available for Asbestos Victims?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease in the last three years, you could be eligible to make an asbestos claim for compensation. It’s important to understand that the three-year time limit is from the date of death or diagnosis – not the date of exposure.

Your solicitor can also signpost you to local support groups and charities for further support and advice for you and your loved ones. 

Author bio:

Thompsons is one of the UK’s leading asbestos solicitors. They won the first ever successful asbestos claim for compensation in 1972 and have been involved in test cases ever since. Thompsons are marking the 20-year anniversary of the ban on the use of asbestos in the UK, by raising awareness of how asbestos continues to be a problem today. Visit the Asbestos: Past, but Present campaign for more information.

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