The campaigns for winning asbestos compensation can often appear to be hard fought with asbestosis lawyers battling to overcome a great deal of resistance to the idea that even a low level exposure to asbestos is a risk to health.

There is a significant body of research evidence to show that lower levels of exposure to asbestos can and do develop into the fatal mesothelioma. But gaining mesothelioma compensation can be extremely difficult when experts are brought in to testify that environmental risk is negligible!

According to Julian Peto of the Health and Safety Commission 1985 review, “Every single person in the UK has some asbestos in their lungs. It is the level of exposure and the frequency that’s important. All the established cases of mesothelioma so far have been due to high and regular exposure. The risk to men is six times higher than the risk to women (who are seldom exposed to asbestos at work). Environmental exposure is clearly not as significant as occupational exposure.”

If it is true that everyone now has some level, no matter how minimal, of asbestos in or around their lung tissue, then the prospects are very serious indeed, given the long latency for asbestos-related diseases and the determining of the cause of asbestosis symptoms.

Notwithstanding, the known dangers of secondary asbestos exposure, there is the less well-known disease of cryptogenic asbestos, whereby a condition is diagnosed, the symptoms of which, are identical to asbestos exposure but are attributed to ‘an unknown cause’. This indeed, could prove problematic to prove in court.

An example of such an instance occurred when a non-smoking Glasgow school cleaner of more than 30 years service with a hitherto, clean bill of health, began to experience shortness of breath and pains in the chest. Fifteen years earlier, the cleaner had, every day for six months, been exposed to asbestos dust when regularly cleaning the dust fallen from insulation material due to a damaged ceiling.

A chest consultant diagnosed ‘cryptogenic’ fibrosing alveolitis – or fibrosis of the lung tissue – and a post mortem would be needed to distinguish between the conditions. In addition, the victim had pleural plaques, accepted as evidence of asbestos exposure, yet the Department of Social Security had refused a claim for benefit, stating the work history was said to be insufficient to cause asbestosis!

Deaths caused by such exposures are likely to rise in the future because much asbestos in buildings was and is totally uncontrolled.