What causes asbestos related diseases such as malignant mesothelioma?
Asbestos related diseases are caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral and it is a fibre. Its unique properties – flexibility, tensile strength, insulation (from heat and electricity) and chemical inertness – once gave it a reputation as one of the most useful and versatile minerals known to humanity. It is the only natural mineral that can be spun and woven like cotton or wool into useful fibres and fabrics.
At one time, asbestos was used in more than 3000 products. From 1950 to 1970, asbestos was everywhere. While the use of asbestos declined from the 1980s, asbestos continued to be imported into Australia until January 2004.
As a result, many people in the community are likely to have been exposed to asbestos and develop an asbestos-related disease. It is unusual for it to strike someone under the age of 30 years, because there is generally a period of 15 to 40 years between exposure to asbestos and the occurrence of disease.
No matter how unique the circumstances of your exposure or even if you don't know how you were exposed, if you have an asbestos-related disease it is likely that you will have some kind of viable claim for compensation.
Proper legal research and advice is critical. The following are all asbestos-related diseases:
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs at any time from 10 to 60 years after first exposure to asbestos. It can also occur in the peritoneum. The average life expectancy following diagnosis with mesothelioma is about 1-2 years although significant variations of malignant mesothelioma do occur.
Mesothelioma develops from the mesothelial cells of the pleura. It is much more common amongst men then in women. In most instances malignant mesothelioma develops after anywhere from 20-50 years after asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is curable but this is very unlikely. It can be combated by surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy and much like other cancers, the later it is diagnosed, the harder it is to fight.
There are about six different forms of lung cancer. All of them can be caused by exposure to asbestos, one of the most malignant being mesothelioma. Most lung cancer sufferers who were exposed to asbestos also smoked.
If you smoked it is important to be aware that the fact that smoking contributed to your cancer does not prevent you from bringing a claim in relation to your asbestos exposure. In many cases, it is the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure that is the cause of lung cancer. So, even if smoking is a cause of your lung cancer, you may still have an asbestos claim.
Asbestosis unlike mesothelioma is not a cancer. It is a slow onset progressive disease that affects breathing by hardening and scarring the lung, which can be severely debilitating. Sufferers of asbestosis also run the risk of getting asbestos-related cancer such as mesothelioma.
Unlike mesothelioma, pleural disease is not a cancer. It is a slow onset progressive disease that can result in pain and breathlessness when the lining of the lungs hardens and constricts, similar to asbestosis. This inhibits the capacity of the lungs to expand and contract and can affect people for many years.
Pleural plaques are not cancer. They are markings on the lining of the lung that indicate past exposure to asbestos. Pleural plaques can calcify or harden. Depending on their position and how extensive they are, pleural plaques can cause some pain and lung restriction. However usually pleural plaques are not disabling.