HAVE YOU, OR HAS SOMEONE CLOSE TO YOU, BEEN AFFECTED BY ASBESTOS OR SILICA DUST?
Asbestos and Asbestos-related disease
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is resistant to heat, electricity and corrosion. It became a popular building product in Australia in the 1940s and was widely used for insulation, cladding and construction for almost five decades. Concerns about the safety of asbestos had been around for centuries. However, it was only in the 1970s that countries began to ban its use. Australia banned asbestos in construction materials in 1989, and it was banned entirely in December 2003, meaning it can’t be imported, used or recycled.
When asbestos is disturbed by moving, cutting, grinding, or any sort of abrasion, it releases long thin fibres into the air which can be easily inhaled and caught in the lungs leading to a range of serious illnesses.
Asbestosis is an inflammatory lung disease caused by asbestos fibres. Over time the lung tissue hardens, making it difficult to breathe and get enough oxygen into the blood. It can take 10 to 20 years after initial exposure for the clinical signs of asbestosis to appear. There is no treatment.
Lung cancer is the general name given to any type of malignant tumour found in the lungs. Asbestos exposure can cause the same kinds of lung cancer as smoking and other pollutants, and like asbestosis, it can take 20 years for signs to appear. Treatment options include radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery.
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs when the asbestos fibres damage the protective membrane surrounding the chest, abdomen and organs. Pleural mesothelioma (lungs) and peritoneal mesothelioma (stomach and abdomen) are the most common forms in Australia. Signs of malignant mesothelioma include fluid accumulation in the chest or abdominal cavities, causing breathlessness or swelling of the abdomen. It’s common for the cancer cells to invade the normal tissues of the lung and chest wall resulting in severe pain.
The disease can occur with only minimal exposure to asbestos dust, but it can take up to 40 years for signs to appear. Treatment includes chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which can prolong life and improve symptoms; however, there is no cure for mesothelioma.
Who is at the highest risk of asbestos exposure?
Although asbestos has been banned, it is still possible to find it in older buildings and workplaces. These occupations have had the highest rate of asbestos-related disease.
- Auto mechanics
- Construction workers
- Industrial workers
- Shipyard workers
- Power plant workers
Signs and symptoms of asbestos-related diseases
- Shortness of breath
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Dry cough or wheezing
- Reduced chest expansion (difficulty breathing)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Muscle weakness
Silica-Dust Related Diseases
Silica is silicon dioxide, a naturally occurring mineral that makes up a large part of most rocks and soils. Crystalline silica is found in sand, stone, concrete and mortar. It’s also in most composite and engineered stone products used for kitchen and bathroom benchtops, bricks, tiles and other decorative surfaces.
When workers cut, crush, drill, polish, saw or grind products that contain crystalline silica, it creates clouds of tiny dust particles that are easily inhaled, causing irreversible lung damage.
Silicosis is inflammation of the lungs caused by exposure to silica dust. Acute silicosis can occur after a brief exposure to a large amount of dust. Accelerated silicosis refers to three or more years of moderate to high levels of silica dust causing inflammation and scarring. Chronic silicosis can develop after long term exposure to lower levels of silica dust and causes fibrotic nodules and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for silicosis other than a lung transplant.
Scleroderma is the name for a group of autoimmune diseases where scar tissue forms in connective tissue resulting in the hardening of the skin, blood vessels, joints, muscles and organs such as the kidneys.
Lung cancer is the general name given to any type of malignant tumour found in the lungs. Exposure to silica dust can contribute to the development of lung cancer over a long period—treatment options include radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery.
Who is at the highest risk of Silica dust exposure?
Mining, construction, kitchen and bathroom installation, engineering, and ceramic production are all considered high-risk industries.
However, any of the following activities can lead to the creation of breathable silica dust particles:
- Cutting, grinding, chipping, sanding, drilling, polishing, assembly and installation of natural and manufactured stone products such as benchtops and tombstones
- Excavation, earthmoving and drilling plant operations
- Clay and stone processing machine operations
- Paving and surfacing
- Mining, quarrying and mineral ore treating processes
- Construction labouring and cleaning up worksites
- Dry cutting of brick, concrete or stone
- Angle grinding, jackhammering and chiselling of concrete or masonry
- Hydraulic fracturing of gas and oil wells
- Glass manufacturing
- Pottery making
Signs and Symptoms of Silica dust disease
- Shortness of breath made worse by exertion
- Irregular or difficult breathing
- Severe and persistent coughing
- Phlegm build-up in the chest
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Cyanosis (bluish skin) or darkening of the skin.
People diagnosed with asbestos and silica dust diseases are entitled to claim compensation for loss of income, medical costs, the impact on your enjoyment of life and other out of pocket expenses.
Depending on where and how the exposure occurred, you may be entitled to several avenues of compensation.
- Workers Compensation.
If the exposure was due to your job or your working environment, you might be able to claim workers compensation to cover loss of income, medical expenses and other costs.
- Superannuation Benefits.
You may also be able to claim any insurance you hold for Total and Permanent Disability and Income Protection. You can also seek the early release of your superannuation.
- Common Law.
If your exposure to asbestos or silica dust was due to negligence by your employer or someone else, you might be able to sue for damages, including lump-sum damages for pain and suffering and past and future economic loss.
The Personal Injury law team at Carbone Lawyers have years of experience in achieving successful outcomes for victims of workplace pollutants and will advise you on the best course of action.
Even if the exposure occurred decades earlier, or your employer at the time is no longer in business, we will be able to investigate your case thoroughly to give the best chance of a successful outcome.
Every day counts
If you have been diagnosed with asbestos or silica-related condition, please seek advice as soon as possible to secure the compensation you deserve for you and your family.
If you are undergoing treatment or unable to travel, our lawyers will be happy to come and visit you at home or in hospital.
No Win, No Fee
When you claim with Carbone Lawyers, you will not need to pay anything up front or during the claim process. Only when your claim is successful will you pay any legal costs. Your lawyer will detail what these may be at your first meeting.
IMPORTANT CHANGES TO LUNG CANCER WITH SILICOSIS CLAIMS
The change not only applies to new and existing silicosis claimants who develop lung cancer or scleroderma but will allow any affected worker or their dependants to retrospectively submit a new claim for injuries suffered since Victoria’s workplace injury compensation scheme commenced in 1985.