There are many myths surrounding asbestos and mesothelioma. Asbestos is highly dangerous and should not be confused or thought less of. Here we hope to debunk some of those myths.
Myth: Only prolonged exposure to asbestos is dangerous.
Fact: Prolonged exposure and repeatedly inhaling large amounts of asbestos dust and fibres is extremely dangerous due to the carcinogenic properties of asbestos. Whereas the risk of asbestos-related diseases increases with a higher level of exposure, there is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Myth: Not all types of asbestos are dangerous.
Fact: There is more than one kind of asbestos, commonly called after their colours with ‘white’ the most common, ‘brown’ used in cement and piping, ‘blue’ found on steam engines and spray-on coatings; but all types of asbestos have something in common: they are highly dangerous.
If you suspect any type of asbestos at home, work, or in a public place, under no circumstances should you attempt to handle the materials yourself. Contact a specialist contractor who will assess and manage any asbestos using protective equipment, disposing of it in a way that ensures no-one is put at risk of exposure.
For more information on the different types of asbestos, see: What are the Different Types of Asbestos?
Myth: There is no longer any asbestos in public buildings in the UK since it was made illegal.
Fact: Sadly, this is not true. Asbestos was no longer used in the UK as of 1999, but any buildings constructed prior to that date – including houses, workplaces and schools – may contain asbestos.
See our recent blog: Political Nightmare: Asbestos in Houses of Parliament
Myth: Only old men suffer from mesothelioma.
Fact: It is often thought that only elderly males suffer asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, but this is not true; asbestos affects everyone regardless of gender or age. This common misconception is often due to the fact the symptoms of mesothelioma take several decades to arise in order for doctors to detect them.
As for victims being ‘old men’, this may be linked to the kind of roles that, decades ago, involved working with asbestos, such as carpentry, construction, for train companies, ship yards and insulation. This may be more a reflection on the kind of jobs men did, but does not mean that women and children are any less susceptible to the cancer-causing properties of asbestos.
Myth: If you don’t work with asbestos, you are not at risk.
Fact: Whereas some industries have previously involved more direct exposure to asbestos than others, many people also tragically inhale asbestos dust and fibres by second hand exposure when transported on clothes and in hair.
Today, professions involving direct contact with asbestos, such as surveyors and asbestos removals, require extensive health and safety precautions – including protective clothing and masks. These robust rules are in place to minimise the risk of exposure and also second hand exposure, however, as asbestos is still prevalent in public buildings constructed prior to 1999, workers in construction and engineering industries may still be at risk.
Myth: Only mesothelioma is caused by asbestos.
Fact: There are sadly a number of asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma. These include, asbestosis, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer, testes cancer, pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and pleural effusion.
Myth: It is safe to dispose of asbestos yourself if you don’t inhale the dust
Fact: This is not true, and under no circumstances should you attempt to handle, remove or dispose of asbestos. You should contact a professional surveyor in the event you are carrying out home renovations and suspect there is an asbestos contamination. For more information on this, please see: Asbestos and the Renovation Roulette
Furthermore, the incorrect disposal of asbestos is a punishable offence. The removal of asbestos from a property should strictly be carried out by specialists. If undertaking refurbishments and you suspect your premises might contain asbestos if built before 1999, it is essential that you do not disturb the asbestos. For further reading, please see: Dagenham Man Sentenced for Incorrect Asbestos Disposal
In the event that you are exposed to asbestos it is important that you register this exposure as soon as possible. This way, in the unfortunate event you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, a trace to the time, place and circumstances can be established in pursuing a future claim. One of the tragedies of being diagnosed with mesothelioma is that the diagnosis is so long after the person was exposed to asbestos that the victim may not remember.
Should you have any further questions concerning asbestos or asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The asbestos compensation solicitors at Slater and Gordon are experts in mesothelioma compensation claims. See our previous case studies for more details.
Patrick Walsh is a principal lawyer specialising in industrial disease claims at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.
If you have any questions about the above case study or would like to speak with a solicitor specialising in asbestos or mesothelioma compensation claims, call us for a free consultation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.