The tragic effects of exposure to asbestos are sadly very clear to doctors, with approximately 100,000 people diagnosed world-wide with asbestos-related cancer every year.
The Effects are Known
It was used for its natural properties of heat-resistance and strong fibres in the building of ships. Once aware of the carcinogenic effects, the UK government wrote to major ship repair companies shortly after WWII advising of the dangers of asbestos exposure. And yet the risk among UK workers continued up until 1999 – with the risks of asbestos still a worldwide problem today.
With the knowledge of the extreme detrimental effects to health, shipwrights and dock workers laboured in constant exposure to asbestos without the necessary protective equipment to prevent inhalation of the asbestos dust.
Asbestos was used by shipbuilding companies in the UK since the 1930s, increasingly so following the Second World War. Laggers, for example, responsible for the mixing of asbestos cement (monkey dung) by hand, would inhale asbestos dust all day, carrying asbestos-filled containers all week long.
The Cause is often Unknown
Inhaling asbestos dust allows the fibres to work their way into the pleura, the thin lining of the lungs. As a result, Pleural Thickening and plaques can develop – the symptoms of which include breathing difficulties and a reduced function of the lungs. There is no cure for Pleural Thickening, and its effects on the lungs can develop over a prolonged length of time.
Though at the time of exposure a shipwright or dockworker may at cough as with any inhalation of dust, the carcinogenic effects are only known decades later. With doctors only able to detect Pleural Thickening and Mesothelioma sometimes 40 years later, many victims will likely not remember the exact time they were exposed to asbestos.
But for ship builders and workers in shipwrights and docks pre-dating the ban on asbestos in the UK, exposure to asbestos was so heavy that, tragically, it is all too clear when they will have contracted asbestos-related diseases.
For more information on frequently asked questions regarding industrial diseases, read our previous blog here.
If you are a former dock worker or were employed by a shipwright, Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for asbestos compensation claims and most claims are dealt with on a No Win No Fee basis. Call our specialist Asbestos Claims Solicitors 24/7 on freephone 0800 884 0275 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.