A recent paper on asbestos by Dr Philip Barber, Consultant Respiratory Physician, entitled ‘Asbestos Attribution of Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer: Dosage and Probability Consideration,’ highlighted the increased risk people working in certain industries have of contracting mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases. The paper also stressed the increased risk people exposed to asbestos through close contact with people working in these industries also have of contracting asbestos related diseases.
In the paper, Dr Barber discusses the probability of mesothelioma being caused by something other than working in close contact with asbestos, an angle some defendants will often try to take when cases go to court. Dr Barber concluded that in the cases of mesothelioma “…it will rarely be possible for a defendant to argue convincingly in favour of a cause, other than asbestos exposure at work, where there is an occupational asbestos exposure history, even with a modest dosage.”
He continues, “the attribution of mesothelioma to occupation, with even very modest exposures, is not usually difficult in a medico-legal setting because of the relative rarity still (in comparison with lung cancer for example) of mesothelioma, and its unique association with asbestos.”
This means it’s rare for someone suffering from mesothelioma not to have contracted this from being exposed in the workplace, or as a result of being affected by someone having worked with asbestos; such as in the case of a child who has been exposed to asbestos as a result of their parent working with asbestos. For example, if a parent returned from work with clothing covered in asbestos dust and fibres, which the child inhales, then this could result in a diagnosis of an asbestos related disease later in the child’s life. That said, Dr Barber concedes that mesothelioma can “undoubtedly be caused by environmental exposures” such as the Washington chemical factory in the North East of England, which contaminated large parts of the surrounding area. However, in cases like these it will likely prove difficult for a defendant to succeed with an argument that someone’s mesothelioma has been caused by environmental exposure, if they have also been exposed to asbestos in the workplace.
In short, if a person can show that they have been negligently exposed to asbestos in their earlier working life, during their school years, or as a result of secondary exposure, for example from their parent’s work clothing and they later develop mesothelioma; it is worth contacting a solicitor in order to enquire about pursuing a claim. Although clearly no substitute for someone’s health, a monetary settlement can assist not only the sufferer of mesothelioma but also their family.
To find out more about asbestos in the workplace, read our blog post ‘Why aren’t we learning our lesson when it comes to asbestos?’