The dangers of asbestos have long been known. In fact, the Romans identified the dangers of asbestos. Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, doctor and historian documented 'sickness of the lung' in slaves who worked in asbestos mines.
In more recent times the first firm reports of asbestos related cancer came from German doctors in the late 1930s.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers each year. Victims include:
The exposure to asbestos can cause a deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. This type of cancer is diagnosed many years following the exposure to the asbestos - sometimes up to 60 years after exposure. Mesothelioma is almost always fatal.
The case of Fairchild -v- Glenhaven Funeral Services Limited, was a very significant mesothelioma case that was decided by the House of Lords in 2002. Mr Fairchild died from mesothelioma. A claim was made by his wife. Mr Fairchild had worked for a number of different employers who had all negligently exposed him to asbestos.
It is a fact that a single asbestos fibre inhaled at any time can trigger mesothelioma. The problem, therefore, was that it was impossible for Mr Fairchild/his wife to prove exactly which employer had exposed him to the actual single asbestos fibre that had triggered his mesothelioma. The House of Lords decided that claimants in these cases only have to show that a particular defendant employer materially increased the risk of harm. They do not have to show, as is impossible, which specific employer exposed them to the actual fibre which triggered their condition. This was very much a victory for claimants and a defeat for the insurance industry. The case remains good law today.
Another disease caused by exposure to asbestos is asbestosis. Asbestosis usually occurs due to heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. It causes breathing problems and in severe cases can be fatal.
Augustines Injury Law have, for many years, handled asbestos related personal injury compensation claims. These have included cases for former Bristol dock workers.