Asbestos lagged pipework is often referred to in statements by mesothelioma sufferers when a claim for mesothelioma compensation begins. In the latest reported case, a 70 year old former chemical analyst at a chocolate factory recalls that the asbestos lagging was in a “poor state” and often released fibre dust into the atmosphere.

Past occupational exposure and breathing-in of airborne particles is now recognised as being a common hazard in public, commercial and industrial buildings where asbestos insulated pipework was present. The thick thermal insulation surrounding the outside of hot water pipes was produced by mixing cement with between 55 per cent and 100 per cent of asbestos fibres.

Pipework lagging would often be disturbed

The research chemist worked at the chocolate company from the mid 1960s until the early 1970s when an average of 160,000 tons of asbestos was annually imported into the UK for use in more than 300 types of insulation products and applications. Asbestos pipe insulation could also be pre-formed in a variety of shapes and sizes for flues, ducts, spigots and space fillers.

The former analyst was in just in his early twenties at the time and recalls that the pipework lagging would often be disturbed during maintenance in the part of the factory where he worked. As is so often reported, the widespread lack of asbestos awareness throughout British workplaces meant that he was never provided with any health and safety information about the potential health risk or issued personal protective equipment, such as specified filtered masks.

Appeal to former work colleagues

It was not until the introduction of The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 that employers were required to “conduct their work in such a way that their employees will not be exposed to health and safety risks” and to “provide information to other people about their workplace, which might affect their health and safety”.

Despite the increasing evidence from doctors and research studies of the link between exposure to asbestos and the development of diseases of the lungs, such as mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis, the first ban was not introduced until the mid 1980s.

Tragically, the chocolate factory researcher lost his life to incurable mesothelioma cancer two years after diagnosis. As is so often the case, his widow is continuing with the compensation claim, by appealing to former work colleagues to provide witness accounts of asbestos exposure and lack of protection at the factory during the early 1970s.

Identification can sometimes be difficult

Asbestos lagged pipework is still frequently found in basements, lofts, above false ceilings or within the infrastructure of buildings. In many cases, identification can sometimes be difficult as the lagging will be covered in a protective material, sealant or simply painted to prevent fibre release.

The tragic legacy of Britain’s asbestos use is expected to continue as the number of terminal mesothelioma victims remains high. The Health & Safety Executive report that at least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed every year and a further 45,000 mesothelioma deaths can be expected until at least 2030.