The Diseases Associated With Asbestos Exposure

Have you been exposed to asbestos for prolonged periods of time in current or previous employments? If so, it's an unfortunate reality that you could, at some stage in your life, be at risk of developing one of a number of asbestos related diseases including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer or pleural thickening. It's through continued exposure that these diseases are caused, at least in most instances and with the exception of lung cancer which has numerous known causes and, as such, we've teamed up with specialist asbestos claim solicitors, Asbestos Advice Helpline, to take a look at these diseases in a little more depth.


Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which affects the mesothelial cells, those which make up the lining which covers the outer surface of many vital organs. When looking at asbestos related diseases, it is pleural mesothelioma that is generally referenced, the form which affects the tissue covering the lungs. Symptoms of mesothelioma include pain in the chest or lower back, shortness of breath, a high temperature, a persistent cough and unexplained weight loss.

It generally takes anywhere between 20 and 60 years for mesothelioma to develop after initial exposure to asbestos and, as such, it is commonly found in older people.


Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition which is caused by exposure to asbestos. When asbestos fibres are repeatedly breathed in, this can often cause scarring of the lungs which can present symptoms including shortness of breath, a persistent cough, wheezing, fatigue and chest pains. Whilst asbestosis is a benign condition, those who are affected by it stand a far greater chance of developing malignant conditions such as mesothelioma or lung cancer and more people with asbestosis die from these conditions than of asbestosis itself.

Asbestos Lung Cancer

Asbestos lung cancer is a rare form of the disease which is caused by exposure to asbestos. As with mesothelioma, it can often take a significant period of time for symptoms of asbestos lung cancer to show and, as such, it is generally the case that the cancer is at a late stage when diagnosed. Symptoms of asbestos related lung cancer include a cough which gets worse and won’t go away, chest pains, trouble breathing and coughing up blood, as well as fatigue and unexplained weight loss.

Pleural Thickening

Again, a benign condition, pleural thickening is a scarring and hardening of the pleura, the protective membrane around the lungs. When asbestos fibres are inhaled, this can cause hardening and scarring of the pleura, making it difficult for the lungs to expand and, as a result, causing breathlessness. Pleural thickening cannot be reversed and may progressively get worse over time.

The above are what are regarded as the four main asbestos related diseases and, should you feel you may have symptoms of one or more of these, we recommend you contact your GP who will be able to advise and, if necessary, send you for testing. Those commonly at risk are those who have previously been involved in industries where asbestos was widely used before it’s ban including plumbers, electricians, laggers, ship makers and other such roles.