Asbestos and Lung Cancer
The Health & Safety Executive has reported that as many as 20 tradespeople a week could be dying from asbestos damage to their lungs.
While the use of asbestos is now banned, it was very widely used for its heat and fire resistant properties between 1940 and 1980. Dockyard workers, electricians, engineers, joiners, plumbers, welders, builders, fitters and heating engineers are likely to have come into contact with asbestos dust in the past.
Due to the widespread industrial use of asbestos we are now seeing over 2500 deaths every year in the UK from malignant mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos fibres many decades previously.
That alone is shocking, but doctors estimate that for every case of mesothelioma there may be two cases of asbestos related lung cancer. Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world. Each year more than 43,000 are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK. While smoking is the single biggest risk factor, exposure to asbestos can also increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
The exact statistics are unclear because it is very difficult to be sure about the cause of individual cases. There are no specific clinical signs associated with particular causes. Asbestos related lung cancer does not look or act any differently to any other type of lung cancer and as many asbestos workers were also smokers, past asbestos exposure is often overlooked.
In fact the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure is now known to be particularly hazardous. Many studies have shown that asbestos exposure more than doubles the risk of developing lung cancer in smokers.
The Government’s industrial injuries benefits scheme, which helps people who are ill or disabled due to an accident or disease caused by work, report that only around 300 new cases of asbestos-related lung cancer are submitted to them each year. Less than 100 cases of asbestos related lung cancer are reported by chest physicians each year.
It seems to be accepted that these schemes tend to substantially underestimate the true scale of asbestos-related lung cancer cases and many cases of asbestos related lung cancer are being missed.
If you or a family member have been diagnosed with lung cancer and have a history of asbestos exposure you may be entitled to claim compensation. For no obligation advice call Wolferstans’ specialist asbestos team on