Asbestos Related Illness and Armed Forces Personnel

Asbestos Related Illness and Armed Forces Personnel

Several news sources have recently reported that Ministry of Defence officials have issued a health warning to military engineers and maintainers both serving and veterans who may have worked on Sea King helicopters since 1969.

The news comes amid reports that the MOD is taking measures to withdraw all Sea King stores and components containing asbestos.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to a variety of adverse health conditions including mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. Illness can often become apparent many years (even decades) after exposure and it is rare for there to be any symptoms at all for 10 to 15 years after exposure.


The symptoms usually develop over time and can include:

  • Shortness of breath;
  • Chest pain;
  • Extreme tiredness;
  • Persistent coughing;
  • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.

If you have any symptoms or are at all concerned you may have been exposed to asbestos, seek advice from your GP or other health professional.


Symptoms often do not become apparent until decades after exposure meaning that asbestos related cancers are often not diagnosed until an advanced stage. At this advanced stage, treatment known as palliative care may focus on controlling the symptoms and prolonging life.

If diagnosed early, possible treatments for cancer may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery.

Other conditions caused by asbestos exposure are not life threatening and care can be provided by local hospitals and GPs.


If you were exposed to asbestos and later develop an illness caused by exposure you may be entitled to claim compensation.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lung and is almost always caused by asbestos exposure.

Until December 2015 veterans and serving personnel suffering from mesothelioma were not entitled to seek redress other than a War Pension from the MOD under the Crown Immunity Indemnity if their exposure to asbestos related to service before 1987. This meant that armed forces personnel received less than their civilian counterparts.

Following pressure on the MOD from mesothelioma support groups including Mesothelioma UK and The Royal British Legion, the law was changed to enable service personnel and veterans suffering with mesothelioma to seek redress from the MOD even if exposure was before 1987.

Redress is in the form of a War Pension paid weekly or a tax-free lump sum of £140,000. This can be applied for by contacting The Royal British Legion, Veterans Welfare Service, Veterans Gateway or a specialist law firm who work closely with military charities and organisations may also be able to support you through the application process.

For service personnel and veterans who have been exposed to asbestos since 1987 and have developed an asbestos related illness additional routes to compensation may be available and they or their family should seek legal advice. Claims can sometimes be brought after death, but not always, and it is important that advice is sought as soon as possible after diagnosis.

The specialist asbestos team at Wolferstans has years of experience assisting sufferers and helping their families when the disease has sadly been terminal. We are well known for our success in actions against the MOD and other employers including British Rail, power stations, ship repair yards and for those employed as plumbers, carpenters, electricians and in the construction industry. We have also brought successful claims for those employed in occupations not usually associated with asbestos exposure, such as office workers. Significant compensation has also been recovered for those who have been “secondary victims”, who inhaled asbestos dust from the work clothes of family members.

If you would like free initial advice on making a claim, please contact our specialist team on 01752 663295 or email

Further information on asbestos related illness can be found at:

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