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Home > Personal Injury > Asbestos-Related Claims > Exposed to Asbestos Dust and Asbestos Fibres

Exposed to Asbestos Dust and Asbestos Fibres

Compensation Claim Advice for Asbestos Victims

Many thousands of victims are suffering or have died as a result of negligent exposure to asbestos usually caused by their employer (or employers) often over a number of years. It is known that even low level and intermittent exposure to asbestos can have devastating results.

To find out more about asbestos, its uses, and devastating effects, please click on one of the links below:

Seeking advice from specialist asbestos-related disease claim lawyers

If you or a family member has developed a disease through exposure to asbestos, Clear Answers’ lawyers are willing to help you. Our lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors, are the most experienced personal injury law firm in the UK and have a reputation for winning land-mark cases for asbestos-related diseases. This type of personal injury compensation claim can be extremely complicated, requiring knowledge of many different occupations, industries, employers and insurance companies. We have the expertise to track down those responsible for your asbestos-related injury and will fight to make sure you or your family receive the compensation to which you are entitled.

Please contact us on 0800 783 9019 and speak to a representative who will be happy to talk you through the claims process and offer expert legal advice about whether you may have a claim for personal injury compensation. Alternatively, you may wish to complete our on-line compensation claim form, and one of our representatives will contact you as soon as possible to discuss your claim.

Strict time limits apply to making a claim for any type of industrial disease, including asbestos-related diseases, so please contact an experienced solicitor as soon as you think you may have a claim for asbestos-related compensation.

Please visit our section on information and advice for more details on making a personal injury compensation claim.

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Asbestos – What is it?

The name ‘Asbestos’ comes from the Greek word meaning “inextinguishable”. It is the name given to a group of fibrous silicate minerals, of which three – Chrysotile, Crocidolite and Amosite - are the most commonly used types of asbestos. Even at very high temperatures, asbestos is non-flammable, whilst being extremely flexible and durable. In 1927, a doctoral thesis described it as:

”The crude mineral is merely a piece of rock or stone. It has truly been called a physical paradox being both fibrous and chystalline, elastic and brittle, yet able to be carded and so converted as to be spun and woven like wool, flax or silk. It would appear to possess the characters of both vegetable and mineral while being different from either; light and feathery as eiderdown, it is yet as dense and heavy as the rock it resembles. The fiercest heat fails to consume it, nor acids affect the strength of its fibres notwithstanding their delicacy; a strand of it can be spun to weigh less than one ounce per hundred yards length and fine cloth can be made from its fibres weighing only a few ounces to the square yard. Its indestructible nature enables it to resist decay under almost any conditions.”

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The most commonly used types of Asbestos


Commonly known as white asbestos – the fibre of chrysotile is curly and can withstand fierce heat. However, they are also the most flexible of all asbestos fibres and can be woven into many types of fabric. It is the most widely used of the three main types, and is traditionally used to strengthen products such as cement and asbestos roofing tiles.


Commonly known as blue asbestos – These needle-like fibres are the strongest of all asbestos fibres and their properties include a high resistance to heat and acids. It offers thermal insulation and was used extensively in yarn and rope lagging until the mid 1960s. However, it is the most lethal of the asbestos fibre group and although strict guidelines regulated its use after 1969, it was eventually banned by the Asbestos (Prohibitions) Regulations of 1985.


Commonly known as brown asbestos – These harsh spiky fibres are resistant to heat and have a high tensile strength. It is widely used for anti-condensation and acoustic purposes providing thermal insulation, pipes, slabs and moulded pipe fitting covers, as well as insulation boards. Import into the UK was also banned by the 1985 Regulations.

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Where does asbestos come from?

Asbestos has been, and still is, mined in many countries around the world, including Canada, Russia and South Africa. However, only South Africa mines all 3 of the main types of asbestos, though its total production fell well behind that of Canada and the USSR, even at its peak.

Nicknamed “the magic mineral” because of its unique chemical composition and physical properties, its use historically was extensive in thousands of products. It is known to have been used in the Royal Yacht Britannia, the House of Commons Chamber and very many buildings in the UK, including schools, and other public buildings.

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Mining Asbestos in South Africa

Mining in South Africa began in 1893. Many of the mines were operated by companies which had close connections with Britain. The economies of the Northern Cape and North Eastern Transvaal became dependent upon asbestos mining.

Lying close to the surface, the mineral was mined in the early days by the use of simple tools. The men would dig the fibre from surface deposits, and it was then hand processed by the women. Finally, children helped to sort the fibre into lengths and bagged it. It was this fibre that was sold to company stores. The whole process involved the family group. They lived and worked surrounded by asbestos.

After World War II strong markets emerged for the sale of asbestos and output in South African soared. However, as the surface deposits began to dwindle, the industry shifted to a more industrial mining operation, sinking deep shafts from which to extract the mineral.

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Asbestos – why was it so extensively used?

Asbestos has been used in many forms as an insulation material to protect against cold, noise, vibration, energy loss and most importantly, its resistance to very high temperatures. It was used as  pipe lagging, suspended ceilings in offices, schools and factories, constructing sets in the film industry, and many more. This has left a legacy of asbestos related disease with repercussions for many years to come.

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The risks involved in the use of asbestos

From very early in the 20th century, the risk of developing serious disease from exposure to the dust and fibres given off by asbestos was identified, and by the mid 1960’s it was known that even very low level and short-term exposure could cause the fatal asbestos cancer, mesothelioma.

The damage is caused by the asbestos fibres. The normal defence mechanisms of the body are geared to dealing with some types of dust that are large enough to be expelled. However, asbestos fibres are so small and sharp that they can penetrate these defences, affecting the lungs and the lining surrounding the lungs (the pleura), and can also cause a tumour in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma).

Despite the growing knowledge of the risks involved, substantial quantities of asbestos continued to be used until the import and use of crysotile (white) asbestos was eventually banned in the UK in 1999. For this reason asbestos is still present in many of our buildings today. It is easily damaged and disturbed if refurbishment, construction or maintenance work takes place around it, releasing the lethal dust and fibres into the atmosphere.

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Asbestos related diseases

Exposure to asbestos, and the diseases it causes, is the single greatest cause of deaths from work-related injuries in the UK, according to the Health and Safety Executive or HSE. The most serious asbestos related disease is mesothelioma which currently causes approximately 2,000 deaths in the UK. The HSE also estimate that for every person who dies from mesothelioma another one or two deaths will be caused by asbestos-related lung cancer.

According to HSE projections, the increase in numbers affected by exposure to asbestos, and the number likely to die as a result, is likely to continue to increase until at least 2011, and possibly beyond, since the total number of people exposed during their working life is unknown. Often, the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases may not be seen until 30 or 40 years after exposure, though they can develop as early as 10 to 15 years after initial exposure in rare cases.

The Department of Work and Pensions provides annual figures for those suffering from non-malignant asbestos-related diseases, and these too show significant numbers are affected. The number of people claiming compensation for the occupational disease asbestosis, rose to over 800 in 2005, and a further 400 were claiming disability benefit because they were suffering from diffuse pleural thickening. The real figures are of course considerably higher, as many sufferers are not aware that they are entitled to them.

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Who is likely to be affected by asbestos related diseases?

Those most at risk are those who work directly in contact with asbestos or who are in the vicinity when asbestos dust and fibres are released. Occupations which have been found to have the highest risk of men developing mesothelioma are:

These trades and occupations are generally related to industries such as:

Many of these trades involve working with or around asbetos containing materials such as the installation of lagging on pipework, or in industrial plant and buildings. The building and maintenance industry has been responsible for over 25% of those dying from mesothelioma, and the industry still includes many occupations that carry a high risk of exposure.

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Asbestos Related News Stories

Clear Answers' asbestos solicitors deal with many asbestos-related and other personal injury compensation claim cases each year. Details of some of these accident compensation claims can be found in our Personal Injury News Section which is updated regularly.

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Asbestos-Related Diseases – Compensation Claims

Telephone us now on 0800 783 9019 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms.

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