The deadly health risk from even a light or minimal time period of exposure to asbestos is once again in the news.

A 78 year old former construction worker from Berkshire, who at the age of just 14 spent just one year of his life working with asbestos, has recently passed away. According to the coroner, exposure to asbestos, which led to his incurable mesothelioma cancer, was the cause of the industrial disease that claimed his life.

Research into twenty years of medical data of over 2,000 males exposed to asbestos had previously found that the highest incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma (cancer of the lung linings) was among those first exposed when they were under 20 years old.

The latest victim worked at the construction company between 1946-47, at the beginning of a post-war period of ‘peak’ asbestos use in many of the country’s building, manufacturing and engineering industries located mainly in the north of England, the Midlands and Wales.

The lack of asbestos awareness of the damage being caused to their long term health by many workers, many of whom were young males, was often due to being deliberately denied information and protective clothing or masks at their workplaces when constantly exposed or directly handling asbestos, often provided in powder form.

Asbestos material was simply seen as an inexpensive, highly effective insulator and fire retardant, which was widely used in a variety of applications from boiler linings and pipe lagging to cement wallboard, spray coatings, vehicle gaskets and brake pads.

It was not until the mid 1980s that the first legislation was passed to ban the use of the most toxic forms of asbestos but white asbestos continued to be used in construction materials for at least another ten years until an import ban in 1999 and a full ban in 2005.

The case demonstrates the particularly insidious nature of asbestosis diseases. A long gestation period of up to 50 years may elapse from the initial exposure and inhaling of the fibre dust until the first signs of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms appear.

As a result, retired and elderly men may have long forgotten or make the connection with a very early period of their working lives when they were exposed to asbestos, even if for a comparatively short time. In addition, there is often a delay in seeking asbestos advice as early asbestosis symptoms closely resemble common respiratory complaints, especially if there is a history of cigarette smoking.

Too often, a confirmed diagnosis of mesothelioma may come just months or even weeks before the patient passes away and with just a three years time limit, it is left to the spouse and/or their family members to pursue mesothelioma compensation.