UK Police Officers Exposed to Asbestos

UK Police Officers Exposed to Asbestos

Alarming news hit the UK headlines[1] last week as it was reported that over 30,000 officers based in the UK had been exposed to the deadly substance – asbestos. These staggeringly high amounts of police officers are thought to have been exposed in firearms training buildings used between the 1980’s and 2007. Asbestos could be present in any building, built or refurbished before 2000 but what is the risk posed to the police officers who have used the buildings?

Short term asbestos exposure

Typically asbestos in a solid state is not harmful and general advice is usually given not to disturb asbestos without using a specialist removal team. A common myth with asbestos exposure is that you usually need to be around it for a long time, over a number of years to be in any serious danger of contracting a related disease. However, one fibre of the substance can be enough to cause a condition known as mesothelioma – an extremely aggressive form of lung cancer associated with asbestos. Life expectancy from diagnosis is estimated at around 18 months.

Conditions like mesothelioma usually manifest for a number of years and the effects might not be felt for up 25-30 years after the initial exposure. Exposure to asbestos is never safe whether it be long or short term.

Long Term Asbestos Exposure

Long term exposure to asbestos can be just as harmful and the risks are higher. The higher risk of disease contraction is associated with the fact that there is an increased chance of contracting mesothelioma along with other serious conditions associated with long term exposure.

Asbestosis is a condition which affects the respiratory system by inflammation of the tissues in the lung. In more severe cases of asbestosis this can lead to respiratory failure. It is typically associated with heavy intensity or long term exposure. Pleural Thickening is another asbestos related condition caused by prolonged exposure and begins with an inflammation of the pleura; it can eventually lead to scar tissue developing on the lung.

A less severe condition stemming from long term asbestos exposure is called pleural plaques, which again, is a form of scarring on the lungs however the effects are more often than not, non-existent. Pleural plaques is usually an indication of exposure rather than a severe disease related to the substance.

Asbestos still present in 2015, How is this possible?

This revelation may come as a surprise to many people who are not too familiar with the use and purpose of asbestos but to construction workers and tradesman this is an everyday reality. Asbestos was used for decades, building roofs and fireproofing work environments and gas mains and due to this; it still exists in many buildings today. According to certain studies approximately 86 per cent of schools in the UK contain the substance (based of 44% of schools responding to the survey) [2].

There is nothing to panic about though as the substance is relatively safe in a solid state and can only become harmful when it is disturbed and emits fibres in to the air. Schemes are now under way to remove the remaining asbestos in schools and will be carried out by specialist removal teams.

What to do if you think you have been exposed to asbestos

It is not easy having a health scare but it is always advisable to watch out for the warning signs of conditions for asbestos exposure especially if you know you have worked around whether it be recently or historically. Most of the conditions discussed above have similar signs and symptoms but the main one is shortness of breath. Other symptoms could also include crackling when breathing [3] or sharp pains in the chest/lung area.

Visit your GP. Do not hesitate when dealing with something you suspect may be asbestos related, make sure you get a check-up and push for a referral if you think it’s necessary. Like all health conditions, the quicker the problem is identified the quicker treatment can start giving you a stronger chance of treatment working to maximum effect.

Compensation is available in many circumstances. As solicitors who specialise in this area of law we understand that this may be the furthest thing from your mind when receiving such a diagnosis however we are here to support and give advice as well as fighting your corner if you do decide to bring a claim. Typically asbestos claims are made against a party that is responsible for exposing you to the substance and there are not too many restrictions in bringing a claim if you already have a diagnosis.

Experts in Asbestos Claims

Our team of specialist asbestos solicitors have years of experience in running these types of claims and not only offer legal support for compensation but are also happy to give free advice and point you in the right direction. If you or anyone you know has been exposed to asbestos please do not hesitate to get in touch and discuss your options with Roberts Jackson’s expert team today.

Reference [1]: Thousands of Met police officers in asbestos ‘risk’ alert
Reference [2]: Asbestos in Schools
Reference [3]: Crackling When Breathing: Steps to Follow