It’s not uncommon for an asbestosis lawyer to hear the standard defence claims for white chrysotile asbestos trotted out once more at the start of a mesothelioma compensation case.

Some asbestos myths simply refuse to be correctly disposed of in the manner that the deadly material itself needs to be dealt with – removed entirely and consigned to history.

It would provide mesothelioma and other asbestosis disease sufferers –as well as their families – a measure of consolation that asbestos awareness to the deadly health damage it is responsible for causing is fully accepted and no longer a routine legal hurdle in a mesothelioma claim.

Standard myth

The standard myth surrounding white asbestos as being a “low risk” to human health goes back more than a quarter of a century to 1985 when the UK finally banned the most dangerous brown and blue asbestos mineral types from its widespread industrial use in the production of insulation materials. However, white asbestos was allowed to continue in the manufacture of building materials, such as wallboards, roofing sheets and tiles, cement binding agent and sprayed surface texture coatings.

The reason for the distinction was based on the distinction between the differing fibre types and the ability of the body’s immune system to evacuate over a period of time.

The structure of white chrysotile asbestos fibres are curly or known as “serpentine”. They are longer, thinner and found to be more flexible than the insoluble and rigid, ‘amphibole’ needle fibres of brown amosite and blue crocidolite asbestos minerals. Consequently, it was found that inhaled chrysotile fibre particles were less likely to be permanently embedded in the lung linings and more able to be “broken down” and a higher number expelled over a shorter period of time.

There is usually a long delay of up to 50 years before the first asbestosis symptoms of mesothelioma appear and it may be thought possible over time for the risk of cancer cells of developing would decrease. As a result, a myth arose that chrysotile fibres “ by themselves” were not harmful. Yet, exposure to and breathing in of chrysotile asbestos fibre dust particles alone, has consistently been found to eventually lead to mesothelioma.

Class 1 Carcinogenic

Medical research shows that the presence of asbestos fibres of all types can cause severe tissue inflammation, leading to scarring of the lung linings (pleural plaques), thickening of the lungs themselves (pleural thickening) and a build up of liquid (pleural effusion). Eventually, tissue cells can become cancerous , forming the tumours of the incurable mesothelioma cancer, which can spread to adjacent tissues and organs.

In the UK, chrysotile has been confirmed as a Class 1 carcinogenic substance at the Government Office for Science. The department said that it may not be possible “to determine a threshold level below which exposure to ‘pure’ chrysotile could be deemed ‘safe’ for human health. The same applies for exposure to chrysotile from cement during removal and disposal activities.”

Unfortunately, Britain’s long legacy of asbestos exposure means that not only do asbestos myths continue to this day but the hard facts are that more than 2,000 cases of mesothelioma are still being diagnosed every year (HSE).