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How long does it take to get asbestosis?

Many workers across Australia have, at some point, been exposed to asbestos as part of their jobs and that exposure comes with grave risks.

There are a number of possible outcomes that can result from asbestos exposure, but one of the most common is asbestosis. If you are diagnosed with this illness, you need to speak with experienced personal injury lawyers right away to fully understand what that may mean for you, the compensation you may be entitled to, and what the claims process looks like.

Read on to learn more about this dust disease, its symptoms and what your options are if you are diagnosed with it:

What is asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a chronic disease of the lungs that you can only contract by inhaling asbestos fibres.

Asbestosis symptoms include shortness of breath, a persistent but dry cough, loss of appetite (and resulting weight loss), as well as chest tightness or pain.

You may also experience fingertips or toes that grow wider or rounder than they used to be, a symptom known as “clubbing.”
These symptoms often show up many years after your asbestos exposure, making detection difficult.

There are not many ways to be exposed to asbestos. This was a common material primarily used for fireproofing, soundproofing and insulation in commercial and industrial buildings from the late 19th century through 1990. In many situations, you may be exposed through proximity to asbestos cement.

Its manufacture and use were not formally banned until Dec. 31, 2003.

You would have been exposed to it in these settings (which can be numerous) but most often, people are exposed through their work. Asbestosis would likely only arise if you were handling asbestos, or by being in close proximity to a fire involving asbestos.

Today, many people face asbestos exposure due to work with asbestos removal.

Asbestosis is distinct from a number of other well-known dust diseases that affect the lung, including the following that would entitle you to pursue a claim:

  • Mesothelioma, a form of cancer
  • Asbestos-related pleural disease
  • Asbestosis
  • Asbestos-induced carcinoma
  • Bagassosis
  • Byssinosis
  • Hard Metal
  • Pneumoconiosis
  • Silicosis
  • Silico-tuberculosis
  • Aluminosis
  • Farmers’ Lung
  • Berylliosis

How long can asbestos stay in the air?

When talking about asbestosis, specifically, it comes when you inhale asbestos fibres, which have no taste or odor. Moreover, it will typically be invisible to the naked eye; it measures just 1/10th of the width of a strand of hair. Asbestos fibre can remain in the air for anywhere between 48 and 72 hours after being disturbed, during which time you could inhale it. It can then be kicked up again if not removed properly by an asbestos professional, extending the potential exposure period.

If exposed to asbestos, what should you do?

Asbestos exposure is dangerous, but in many cases you would not be able to know that you were affected by it. And even if you do know you were exposed, relatively short exposure without a lot of material in the air will likely not result in disease.

Instead, much like exposure to heavy metals, it takes time or heavy doses (or both) for the buildup to be great enough that you will one day be diagnosed with dust disease. As such a large number of small exposures, or a single large-exposure event (such as a house fire) can be cause for concern.

If you believe – or know – you have been exposed to asbestos dust, it’s important to tell your healthcare provider. In most cases, it will take you decades to develop symptoms, but it’s definitely something you should have on your file as early as possible.

What are the possible tests to diagnose asbestosis?

If you and your doctor believe asbestosis is a possible cause of some of the symptoms listed above, you will likely go through CT scans which can reveal scarring on your lungs in early-stage cases. If your asbestosis is more severe, it can even show up in a chest x-ray in the form of lung scarring.
Doctors can also administer other tests to obtain a tissue or fluid sample from your lung that can be tested in a medical lab.

How long does it take to see symptoms?

As mentioned, the time from exposure to asbestos and your experiencing the symptoms can take many years. Sometimes as few as 10, sometimes as many as 40 or even 50.

These symptoms can be relatively muted, and in other cases, they can be rather severe.

How long can you live with asbestosis?

The good news if you are diagnosed with asbestosis is that it is not mesothelioma or a kind of lung cancer. Asbestosis is a chronic disease for which you can be treated but not cured, so that your symptoms may be less severe. As such, you may be able to live for many years with asbestosis – potentially decades. However, the more severe your symptoms, the less likely that will be, as there can be knock-on complications that arise from the asbestos related illness.

How long does it take for asbestos exposure to become significant?

In short, the answer to this question is, “It depends.”

As mentioned above, simply having a small amount of exposure to asbestos in any significant way one time may not be a problem. In fact, the mineral is in the air you breathe every day, at very low concentrations.

However, no amount of asbestos is safe to inhale, and there is no scientific consensus as to how much exposure is too much. Generally speaking, if you live or worked around asbestos containing material for years, or even just had a short-term exposure with a high concentration (usually identifiable with visible clouds of fibres), that’s certainly not good.

How long does it take to get mesothelioma after asbestos exposure?

Again, mesothelioma is not asbestosis. It is a more severe type of dust disease – an aggressive, fatal lung cancer – caused by exposure to asbestos.

Like asbestosis, though, this type of lung disease can take decades to detect.

How does the claims process accommodate the delay to symptoms?

With all of the above in mind, you may be wondering how you can make a claim for an asbestos-related disease if you may not see symptoms for a few decades or more.


This can be a complicated question, because there are two ways to make a claim: via a “common law claim” through the courts, or “statutory claim” via the various types of payout schemes run by your state or territory.

There may be time limits on when you can file a common law claim, depending on where you live, but these are based not on your exposure, but rather your diagnosis. For instance, if you were exposed to asbestos in 1980 but only began experiencing symptoms related to the lung disease recently, you may have as little as six months or as much as a few years.

How long does an asbestos claim take?

If you are filing a claim about asbestosis or another dust disease, you will generally see the claims process take at least a few months, but typically no more than a year.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with asbestosis at this point, contact Gerard Malouf & Partners today to speak to our experienced staff about meeting with our personal injury lawyers to understand your options and, potentially, the types of damages you can claim.

Your first consultation is free, and we contest on a “no win, no fee” basis.


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Gerard Malouf & Partners have provided friendly, experienced legal advice to communities across Australia for over 35 years. Our Personal Injury Lawyers have taken on ten’s of thousands of cases and we are proud to have won billions of dollars for our clients.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.

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