I am a dust diseases and asbestos senior associate at Maurice Blackburn in Melbourne. My role is to assist people to access compensation when if they have developed an asbestos-related disease.
In my experience, there can be a lot of confusion about what health issues can be caused by exposure to asbestos dust. There can also be various explanations for health issues, meaning the same type of condition could be caused by a number of different things, making it difficult for clients to know whether they are entitled to compensation.
Understanding the different illnesses that can be caused by asbestos exposure can also help clients understand if they may have a claim.
If you have a condition or symptoms that have been caused by asbestos exposure, you can pursue a claim for compensation.
Very often, I speak with people who believe that they have ‘asbestos on the lungs’ or ‘asbestos lung’. Someone recently told me that they had an asbestos lung disease but that the doctor had told them it hadn’t gone ‘crusty’ yet.
These terms could mean various things and could mean a diagnosis with a number of different health conditions. It is for this reason that it is important to discuss any asbestos exposures with your doctors, but also to get good, specialised advice from a dedicated lawyer who understands asbestos diseases and can interpret the medical information.
We assist clients by reviewing medical records, including CT scans and chest x-ray, and work with their specialist lung doctors so we can provide advice about whether asbestos was a cause of the condition.
Having some background about the illnesses, diseases and cancers that can be caused by asbestos may help you when discussing your health with a doctor, as well as understand whether you may be able to make a claim for compensation.
Some of the most common asbestos-related health conditions are:
Pleural plaques are indicators of past asbestos exposure which are evident on a lung x‑ray. Pleural plaques do not usually produce symptoms and for this reason are usually not compensable.
Asbestosis is scarring of the lungs which often causes increasing breathlessness. Asbestosis usually arises following significant exposure to asbestos dust and fibres over a number of years or a heavy intensity. Compensation is usually payable when asbestosis has been diagnosed and is largely determined by the extent and the severity of the condition.
Asbestos Related Pleural Disease
Asbestos-related pleural disease (ARPD) is an umbrella category for other changes or signs and symptoms of asbestos exposure occurring in the pleura. This condition can present with pleural thickening or with current fluid build-up in the lungs called a ‘pleural effusion’. If ARPD causes symptoms like lung restriction, shortness of breath or pain, and there is medical support relating those symptoms to the asbestos exposure, compensation may be available.
Lung cancer is proven to be associated with asbestos exposure. If a person has had significant exposure to asbestos, then compensation is often payable when lung cancer is diagnosed, even if the person has a history of smoking. To attribute the lung cancer to previous asbestos exposure usually requires significant exposure to asbestos dust and fibres over a number of years or a heavy intensity
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the membrane surrounding the lung (called the pleural). The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure and the condition can be caused by even brief or light exposures to asbestos dust and fibres. For example, a person who previously renovated a home with asbestos building products, worked with asbestos, used asbestos brakes or washed the clothes of others who worked with asbestos are at risk of developing mesothelioma. If a source of asbestos exposure can be identified then compensation is payable in the vast majority of cases.
If you doctor has said that you have asbestos in your lungs, then we suggest that you do the following:
We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Australian Capital Territory. If you need a lawyer in Canberra or elsewhere in Australian Capital Territory, please call us on 1800 675 346.
We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.