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What's asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural mineral fibre which was widely used in building products and heat-resistant fabrics in Australia until 1985. 

When someone is exposed to the fibres and dust from asbestos, it can lead to serious illness later in life. Many people don't have symptoms until decades later. 

Who can be exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos can affect people from all walks of life. Sufferers of asbestos disease are often exposed during the course of their work such as:

  • Builders
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Mechanics
  • Dock workers

However, people can also be exposed to asbestos in the course of domestic renovations, from the building of their own home or in another setting like a school or their office. 

Asbestos was used extensively as a building product right through until the early 1980s. It was used in almost every house built in Australia after the Second World War and was very commonly used to line bathrooms and kitchens, as well as for eaves or as cladding. 

Even if you do not know when or where you were exposed to asbestos, our dedicated team will work through your memories with you to gather information and then conduct independent research and investigations to advise about a compensation claim. 

Asbestos related diseases

Exposure to asbestos dust and fibres can cause diseases such as:

  • Mesothelioma cancer 
  • Asbestos related lung cancer
  • Asbestosis
  • Asbestos related Pleural disease (thickened tissue in lung lining)

See below for further information on these diseases.

Making an asbestos compensation claim

If you've been exposed to asbestos and live with an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible for compensation. This compensation can help relieve the financial burden and help with expenses for medical treatment and therapies. 

Our asbestos compensation lawyers are experienced with claims like these, and can help you understand what options are available to you. 

The claims differ between states and time periods of exposure. As a national team of lawyers, we can help you navigate this. 

We're long time advocates for people living with asbestos related diseases and partner with associated organisations and can refer you for additional support services. 

National Asbestos Register

It’s a good idea to document any asbestos exposure in case you develop an asbestos-related disease later in life. Our free National Asbestos Register is an easy way to do this.

Recording the details of your asbestos exposure, regardless of how recent or long ago it was, can help any future claims for compensation you may need to make. It's free to register, and obligation-free as well.

Most common types of asbestos related diseases

What's asbestosis disease?

Asbestosis is a progressive and irreversible condition that restricts breathing caused by inhaled asbestos fibres scarring and eventually hardening the lungs.

What are the symptoms of asbestosis?

Symptoms of asbestosis can include a shortness of breath (dyspnoea), coughing, chest tightness and chest pain. Doctors can test for asbestosis by conducting a respiratory/lung function test and radiological investigations including chest X-rays and CT scans. Because asbestosis can be a progressive condition, symptoms will often get worse and the need for treatment can increase with age.

Who's most likely to suffer from asbestosis?

Asbestosis is caused by exposure to and inhalation of asbestos fibres. Sufferers of asbestosis have a significant history of asbestos exposure, however they may not be diagnosed until decades after their exposure to asbestos. Exposure can occur in people who worked with or in the vicinity of products containing asbestos over a prolonged period or for shorter but more intense periods. It's possible to suffer from other asbestos-related conditions at the same time as asbestosis, such as asbestos-related pleural thickening or pleural plaques.

What is asbestos related pleural disease?

Asbestos related pleural disease refers to the other benign changes and damage that can be caused in the lung due to asbestos exposure. The damage can cause a rind of thickening to occur in the lining of the lung or extensive calcification can cause lung restriction resulting in breathlessness. Asbestos damage can also cause the lung to generate fluid called an ‘effusion’. 

Asbestos-related pleural disease can significantly impair a person’s lung function and cause pain and discomfort. Depending on the damage, the condition can progress over time. 

Asbestos-related pleural disease is different from ‘pleural plaques’. Pleural plaques are a marker that you have been exposed to asbestos, but do not usually cause any symptoms.  

What's mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer which develops in the mesothelium, the protective membrane which covers most of the body's internal organs. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos dust. It’s thought that when asbestos fibres are inhaled or ingested, they pierce the mesothelial lining, causing cells to react abnormally, and usually result in scarring or inflammation.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

Symptoms usually appear around 30 to 40 years after first exposure. Sometimes it’s as long as 60 years, but usually not less than 15 years.

Mesothelioma often isn't diagnosed until the later stages of the disease. It's important that symptoms are identified and treated as soon as possible to improve quality of life. Symptoms differ depending on the type of mesothelioma. Early warning signs can include a cough, shortness of breath and shoulder or abdominal pain.

Types of mesothelioma cancer

There are four types of asbestos mesothelioma:

  • pleural - involving the lungs
  • peritoneal - involving the stomach and abdomen
  • pericardial - involving the heart
  • testicular

Pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma are the most common types, comprising approximately 90% of all cases.

What's asbestos lung cancer?

Asbestos cancers are caused by breathing in or swallowing toxic asbestos in the form of either dust or fibres. The toxic fibres enter the body and lodge in healthy cells, eventually causing DNA changes and damage that lead to cancer.

What are the symptoms of asbestos lung cancer?

Like mesothelioma, symptoms can take decades to develop. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing up blood.

Types of asbestos lung cancer

There are many forms of lung cancer, and many of these can be related to working with asbestos. Asbestos lung cancers include:

  • adenocarcinoma
  • non-small cell lung cancer
  • squamous cell lung cancer
  • small cell lung cancer

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