Symptoms from exposure to Asbestos dust

Published 25 Jul 2013

We shouldn’t think of it as a death sentence, when someone is diagnosed with a condition related to exposure to asbestos. Many do not suffer any loss of life expectancy at all and others survive well beyond the time limit given to them by their doctors. The thing to do is to obtain medical and legal advice so that you and your family can plan for the future.

A persistent cough and often discoloured phlegm, along with being more easily worn out or heavy breathing when you exert yourself, are the early warning signs that something might be wrong. Other signs to look for include swelling around the neck area, difficulty swallowing, coughing blood, loss of appetite, chest pains and weight loss. If any of these signs appear, it’s best to get it checked out by a doctor – early detection for all types of respiratory or other medical problems helps the chances of treatment.

It is important to mention to any treating doctor, if you know that there has been some past exposure to asbestos or materials that contain it, no matter how brief, that you are concerned about this possible cause for your problems. Symptoms related to a heart condition can mask the presence of an asbestos related disorder so it is important that you give the examining doctor as much information as possible so that he, or she, can formulate an accurate diagnosis.

Unfortunately, for Australians, asbestos was commonly used in building materials, where it can be found in fibro walls, the eaves and bathrooms in a majority of homes built after World War II, before the 1980’s as well as in factories, hospitals and even road building. Anyone who worked with asbestos changed the brake linings on their car or lived near where asbestos material was manufactured, is likely to have been exposed and should be watching for symptoms. They can appear in people as young as 30 or as old as your grandparents.

But what do you do when symptoms appear?

Obviously, the first thing to do is to be checked out by a doctor. When it comes to older people, particularly older Australian men, many are often reluctant to visit a doctor. Also, if the man were exposed to asbestos dust and brought it home on his clothing his wife may also have been unknowingly exposed to the dust. Similar symptoms in your mother or grandmother may also be the tell-tale sign of such exposure.

If you’re worried about a father or grandfather, mother or grandmother, who you believe is showing signs that are of concern, it is important to reassure them that the only way to be certain is to have it checked out. Knowing the truth about a condition is so much better than worrying, and, most importantly, much better than not doing anything about it at all.

Making a legal claim, too, is often something older Australians are reluctant to do. But the process of making a claim is not as involved as you might think. At Gerard Malouf & Partners any claim is litigated on a no win no cost to you basis and often any claim is made even easier than you expect because the solicitor, expert in dust diseases claims, will come to you to get instructions. Usually we are able to settle any claim without going to Court however we are very proud to say, when this has not been possible, we have never lost a litigated claim in the Dust Diseases Tribunal.

An Asbestos Related Pleural Disease or Asbestosis can appear in as little as seven years, sometimes though it can take 20 years or longer, before the first symptoms make themselves known. With mesothelioma symptoms can take up to 40 years or so to emerge.

Seeking medical advice is essential but also seeking legal advice, at no cost to you, is a good idea, particularly if you have an entitlement to make a claim, as it is a way of securing a payment of compensation as a legacy for the family. In the end, it is important not only to hold asbestos mining and manufacturing companies accountable, but help to secure your family’s future. We pride ourselves on being able to do just that at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation Lawyers and look forward to being of assistance. Gerard, Kim or Antonio are just a telephone call away on 9630 4122.