Whenever we read of an incident of asbestos flytipping or failure to observe the required procedures for asbestos disposal, it is another example of how, even today, the deadly risks of just a short period of asbestos exposure seem to be so easily dismissed or ignored.
Over two thousand cases of mesothelioma are still being diagnosed every year in the UK and many mesothelioma claim cases continue to highlight the lack of asbestos awareness to the health risks of even a brief exposure at the time.
One recent example is a 69 year old Somerset carpenter’s labourer who was diagnosed in December 2011 with the fatal, incurable mesothelioma cancer. In this particular case, the exposure to asbestos occurred over just four weeks in 1974 when asbestos sheeting was being cut to size during the renovation of an RAF barracks on Salisbury Plain.
At that time, all types of asbestos were widely used as insulation and fireproofing in UK industries, including construction, engineering, manufacturing shipbuilding and vehicle assembly. Considerable medical evidence had been growing of the fatal health dangers to workers breathing in the deadly fibres but the most toxic asbestos types were not banned until 1985.
In addition, many company employers simply ‘kept quiet’ about the risks and did not provide any form of protective equipment, such as masks, or clothing. The carpenter confirmed that he knew he had been working with asbestos at the time but was never informed by his employers of any health risks and was simply unaware of the long term consequences.
A gestation period of between 15 to 50 years usually occurs from initial exposure – no matter how brief – to the first appearance of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms. In October 2011, 37 years later after just the four weeks of inhaling fibre dust, the early signs of the disease started to appear.
From a confirmed diagnosis at a late stage of the spread of the cancer, there may be between 4 to 18 months life expectancy, within which, a mesothelioma victim might be able to see settlement of compensation and thus, financial securement for a spouse and immediate family.
Today, most asbestos uncovered is likely to be white chrysotile, a ‘low risk’ material if not disturbed and carefully controlled, yet still a health hazard if fibres are released into the surrounding air and inhaled for just a brief period.
Any building, residential or commercial, constructed or renovated up until the 1980s and 90s at least can still contain asbestos containing materials and should first undergo a management survey. If any asbestos is discovered, it should be disposed of by authorised contractors and not handled by a builder or tradesman.