‘White collar staff increasingly affected by asbestos,’ warns solicitor

The North East’s toll of absbestos-related illness is increasingly affecting white collar and local authority workers – such as teachers and office workers – a solicitor has warned. Industrial workers have previously been most affected by the tragedy, because of the region’s legacy of heavy industry.

But John Hall, Managing Partner with Tilly Bailey & Irvine Solicitors, said increasing numbers of white collar workers were succumbing to asbestos-related diseases following years of low-level workplace exposure – however claims against their employers were proving difficult to substantiate.

The British Medical Journal recently predicted a rise in the number of asbestos-related diseases, likely to peak around 2020. The deadliest such disease is mesothelioma, for which there is no cure. Said Mr Hall;

“Mesothelioma has mostly affected those who have worked in heavy industry without protection against the asbestos dust they were exposed to.  However, more recently cases have appeared where teachers and office workers have developed this disease.

These occupations were not previously considered at risk, but the evidence shows low level exposure to the dust is sufficient to cause disease. Mesothelioma develops between 25 and 50 years after the asbestos exposure, and many of the cases we see now involve exposure in the 1960s and 70s.”

He added:

“At that time many white collar workers would have been unknowingly exposed to low levels of the dust in their workplace. Only now is it revealing itself as the disease develops.

While it is difficult to substantiate a claim against the owners of the building where a person worked, or the local authority if applicable, we are expecting increasing numbers of such cases in the coming years. A lawyer who is tracking relevant case law will be best able to advise anyone suffering from this disease.”