Earlier in October 2014, it was revealed that sixteen people (and probably many more) who lived within one kilometre of a Melbourne factory had each died of an asbestos-related disease. Approximately five acres of land at the Wunderlich asbestos factory in Melbourne's outskirts was covered in asbestos dust for decades. Health officials are forensically analysing patient cancer records to ascertain if other nearby residents also died or became ill as a result of asbestos-related disease.
This recent tragic revelation has provided a salient and poignant reminder regarding the dangers of not only working with asbestos products, but also living in locations where residents may have been exposed to asbestos dust.
It is common knowledge that many asbestos-related diseases including asbestosis, pleural plaques and mesothelioma can have a latency period of many decades. Often it is not only the individuals who worked with asbestos that contract these potentially life-threatening ailments, but their families also; for example, it is not uncommon to learn that a wife of a worker contracted an asbestos-related disease because she regularly washed her husband's overalls that were covered in asbestos fibres.
At Andersons, we work with many clients who are suffering from asbestos-related disease, and we have fought for their entitlement to compensation against their former employers as well as suppliers and manufacturers of asbestos-laden products and materials. Making an asbestos or 'dust diseases' claim is a specialised area of law, and victims of asbestos are covered by specific legislation regarding dust diseases.
It can be difficult to pinpoint the extent of the lung problems that have been caused by asbestos; for example, complications arise if an injured person also suffers from other lung problems including asthma or emphysema, or if they are or have previously been a smoker or exposed to other toxins.
Even though the dangers of asbestos are well known (and have been well known for the better part of half a century) exposure to asbestos is still very common. Many people don't even realise how prevalent asbestos products are in today's society. For example, many old motor vehicles contain asbestos material in their brake pads, and it would be easy for a car owner to be exposed to asbestos if they choose to perform some work on their vehicle.
Similarly, many houses and office buildings are riddled with asbestos. The law obliges most businesses to retain an 'asbestos register' to warn occupiers and visitors to the buildings about the location of asbestos-containing items and products. Strict regulations apply to the removal and disposal of products containing asbestos. But these days, home renovators are arguably most at risk to the dangers of asbestos exposure. It is easy, for example, for a home handyman to choose to rip up tiles in the bathroom or linoleum in the kitchen, or pull down a fence, without realising that doing so exposes them to a significant risk to their health.
If you believe that you are suffering symptoms that may be related to exposure to asbestos, you should immediately consult with your healthcare professional. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related diseased, you should contact today's blog writer to discuss your legal rights and any entitlement you may have to compensation.