Exposure to asbestos causes both cancerous and non-cancerous diseases.
Cancers caused by asbestos include mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer,
The most well known non cancerous conditions are asbestosis – a condition affecting the lungs; and asbestos related pleural disease – a condition affecting the lining of the lung known as the pleura.

Benign (non-malignant) asbestos diseases

Asbestosis (and Asbestos Related Pleural Disease) are benign, as opposed to malignant, asbestos diseases.  They are generally the result of occupational exposure to asbestos as they only occur n people who have had a substantial history of exposure to asbestos.

Asbestosis is a fibrosis (a scarring) of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.  The fibrosis makes it harder to breathe and the most common symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath.  Other symptoms can include chest pain, persistent dry cough and finger clubbing (enlarged fingertips).

The scarring results from asbestos fibres penetrating the lung tissue and causing inflammation.  Unlike some diseases caused by smoking such as COPD, asbestosis affects the lungs, not the airways.  Other conditions lead to a fibrosis of the lungs including silicosis, caused by silica dust, and or various other conditions caused by exposure to other dusts.  When there is no known cause of the fibrosis, it is known as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.  A key element in the diagnostic process is whether the person has been exposed to various dusts.

Asbestosis is often progressive meaning the symptoms (particularity the shortness of breath) get worse.  However, the rate of deterioration varies greatly between people.  In severe cases asbestosis cause respiratory failure and death.

Unlike mesothelioma where there no level of asbestos exposure below which there is not a risk of the disease developing, asbestosis and asbestos related pleural disease are caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos usually during the course of manufacturing, construction or heavy industry.  Most people who develop asbestosis or asbestos related pleural disease had occupational exposure where they worked with materials containing asbestos on a daily basis.

What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a fibrosis (a scarring) of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.   The fibrosis makes it harder to breathe and the most common symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath.  Other symptoms can include chest pain, persistent dry cough and finger clubbing (enlarged fingertips).

Asbestosis is not a cancer.

The scarring results from asbestos fibres penetrating the lung tissue and causing inflammation.  Unlike some diseases caused by smoking such as COPD, asbestosis affects the lungs, not the airways.  Other conditions lead to a fibrosis of the lungs including silicosis, caused by silica dust, and or various other conditions caused by exposure to other dusts.  When there is no known cause of the fibrosis, it is known as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.  A key element in the diagnostic process is whether the person has been exposed to various dusts.

Asbestosis is often progressive meaning the symptoms (particularity the shortness of breath) get worse.  However, the rate of deterioration varies greatly between people.  In severe cases asbestosis cause respiratory failure and death.

What is Asbestos Releated Pleural Disease?

Like Asbestosis, Asbestos Related Pleural Disease  – often referred to as ‘ARPD’  – is a not a malignant disease (that is, it is not a cancer), but rather a “benign” condition.  ARPD often arises following benign asbestos related pleural effusions, which are a build up of fluid in the pleural cavity.

Symptoms of ARPD are generally shortness of breath and impaired lung function.

While asbestosis generally only occurs when individuals have had a substantial exposure to asbestosis, ARPD can arise with smaller exposure.  However, like asbestosis,, people with ARPD have generally had occupational exposure to asbestos, rather than smaller home renovation type exposures.

ARPD is not always progressive, although in some cases it can be.

Compensation for Benign Asbestos Diseases

If you have asbestosis or ARPD, your primary claim for compensation in a court is known as a common law claim for damages.

A common law claim may be brought against your former employer, or against a manufacturers of the asbestos products, such as James Hardie or Wunderlich, you were exposed to. If your former employer no longer exists,  their workers’ compensation insurer  will be liable.  Claims can also be brought against others who owed you a duty of care, such as the occupier or a property in which you were exposed.

Asbestosis and ARPD are known as “divisible” diseases.  This means that the law treats each exposure as having caused part of the disease.  By way of example, if a person had two periods of employment with exposure to asbestos – the first for 5 years ad the second for 10 years,  the first employer would be held responsible for one-third of the disease, while the second employer would be responsible for two-thirds of the disease (assuming the level of expsoure was the same throughout).  Divisible conditions can be contrasted with a disease like mesothelioma which are known as indivisible conditions.  In indivisible conditions, each employer would be considered to be responsible for the entire disease.

Because asbestosis and ARPD are  “divisible” diseases it is important to try to identify someone responsible for each period of exposure.  This can be your employer, a product manufacturer, or the occupier of the site you worked on.

In asbestosis and ARPD claims, we act on a full no win no fee basis which means we will not be paid unless you win your claim. More information about our fees is set out on our fee policy page.

Free Case Assessment

We offer a free initial case assessment in all dust diseases matters.

We will obtain preliminary information from you and advise you whether we believe you are likely to have a claim for compensation.  We will also provide some indicative advice as to the likely value of any claim, and our costs in the event you were to instruct us.

The case assessment may be by phone, via video conference (such as Zoom or Teams) or in person. There is no cost associated with this case assessment, nor any obligation to instruct us in your matter.

To arrange your free case assessment please complete the form below or contact us by phone or email.

Case Assessment form

Contact us

We are able to be contacted by phone, email, web chat or video conferencing.  We have offices in Melbourne and Sydney, and regularly see clients who are to unwell to travel in their homes or hospital (although this is limited at present due to Covid-19).  We act for people with asbestos diseases in every State in Australia as well people living overseas.

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