Asbestos news

 

Is there a link between Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Asbestos?

Asbestos-related disease deaths

The Health and Safety Executive predicts that the number of deaths from mesothelioma will peak in or around 2020. This is based upon the amount of asbestos imported into the UK and the widespread, industrial use of asbestos, particularly between 1950 to 1980.

The expectation is that as asbestos use declined, exposure to asbestos dust would also have declined and therefore the number of deaths is expected to drop accordingly.

Most diseases caused by exposure to asbestos have long latency periods of typically between 20 and 50 years, which is why there is such a long time between the reduction in the use of asbestos and the predicted peak in asbestos-related mortality.

What is IPF? 

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is an irreversible lung disease which results in breathlessness which will worsen over time. ‘Pulmonary fibrosis’ is used to describe the scarring of the lung tissue which causes the shortness of breath. The designation ‘idiopathic’ is given when the cause of the lung fibrosis is unknown.

Who does IPF affect?

Mortality due to IPF in the UK continues to rise and accounts for approximately 5000 deaths per year. In 2012 about 32,500 people were diagnosed with IPF in the UK, with a high incidence in Northern Ireland, North West Scotland, Scotland and Wales. The risk and incidence of IPF increases significantly with age, so IPF is diagnosed more frequently in those over 40. 

How is it distinct from asbestosis?

Whilst IPF shares many of the same characteristics as asbestosis, one of the most important distinctions is that a claim for compensation cannot be made for IPF, but a claim can be made for asbestosis. 

Why is IPF on the increase?

There appears to be no reason for the rising incidence of IPF in the UK. IPF has been linked with occupations such as metal and woodworkers, textile or stone exposure or from cattle or farming exposure. Infection from particular viruses might be another cause. 

Can IPF be linked with asbestos exposure?

A recent study compared the number of deaths of mesothelioma, asbestosis and IPF with the level of asbestos imported for the relevant latency period. The number of male deaths due to IPF and mesothelioma for each year was very similar.

The number of female deaths due to IPF and mesothelioma also increased. The number of female deaths due to IPF was consistently higher than those due to mesothelioma.

However, the number of asbestosis deaths was lower for males and did not increase for females. 

What does this all mean?

The results of the study showed that the rising number of asbestos deaths and historic asbestos importation was connected.  The number of deaths due to IPF was also significantly related to previous asbestos imports. 

Although the study cannot conclude that IPF is caused by exposure to asbestos, it does raise interesting questions as to whether IPF is in fact due to unrecognised asbestos exposure.

Until clinical evidence is identified which links IPF with asbestos exposure, clinicians will be reliant upon patients providing clear evidence of their asbestos exposure when assessing whether or not pulmonary fibrosis could be asbestosis. If the patient cannot provide detailed evidence of exposure to asbestos dust, then it is highly likely that they will be diagnosed with IPF. 

When is it asbestosis?

In order to prove a claim for asbestosis, the history of asbestos exposure needs to be moderate to heavy for many years, together with clinical evidence of asbestosis.

An asbestosis claim can be proven where there is an occupational history of one year with heavy exposure to asbestos or five to 10 years of moderate exposure to asbestos. As a general rule the greater the level of exposure, the greater the extent of the asbestosis.

Disclosure documents in Cape claim to be made publicly available

The Asbestos Victims Support Group Forum UK has championed a campaign to the High Court to prevent the destruction of a vast number of documents, which were pulled together as a part of disclosure in the case of Concept 70 & others v Cape International Holdings Ltd [2017].

What was the Concept 70 case?

The original claim from Concept 70 was for a financial contribution from Cape, to the settlement of a number of asbestos disease claims which related to asbestos exposure between 1955 and 1980 with Cape.

A huge amount of disclosure was pulled together as a part of this claim in order to consider the insurers request for contributions from Cape. The Concept 70 case was settled before any judgment was handed down and The Asbestos Victims Support Group Forum UK had heard that a term of the settlement was that many of the documents held by Cape would soon be destroyed.

What did the Asbestos Victims Support Group Forum UK do?

The Asbestos Victims Support Group Forum UK appointed Graham Dring to bring the claim on their behalf. An application to the Court that these historic asbestos documents be preserved was made, pending a further application for disclosure.

On 5 December 2017 Master McCloud in the High Court, who also used to sit as a specialist asbestos judge, granted permission for a number of disclosure documents in the Concept 70 claim to be made available including witness statements, expert reports, transcripts, disclosed documents relied on by the parties at Trial, written submissions and skeletons and statements of case.

Why is this decision important?

The decision to order disclosure of these documents is significant for both mesothelioma claims generally and in particular future and current claims against Cape. It is hoped that the documents will allow an insight into the historic practices surrounding the use of asbestos in the asbestos industry and will assist mesothelioma and asbestos claimants to progress their claims as swiftly as possible to a successful conclusion.

What is so important about Cape?

Cape is intrinsically linked with the asbestos industry in the UK. It has frequently been thought that Cape hid their knowledge of the dangers of asbestos from their work force and the general public for 

a number of years, these documents will hopefully shed some light on this. Cape played a critical role in the asbestos industry and gave evidence to the Advisory Committee on Asbestos and heavily influenced historic policies on asbestos usage.

We fully support the decision to allow for disclosure of Cape’s documents and believe that this will greatly benefit our clients with mesothelioma.

What might the documents be used for?

In handing down her judgment Master McCloud considered the request for what the documents might be used for:

  • Make the material publicly available
  • To promote academic consideration as to the science and history of asbestos and asbestolux exposure and production
  • To improve the understanding of the genesis and legitimacy of TDN13 and any industry lobbying leading to it in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Understand the industrial history of Cape and its development of knowledge of asbestos safety
  • Clarify the extent to which Cape is or is not responsible for product safety issues arising from the handling of asbestolux boards
  • To assist court claims and the provision of advice to asbestos disease sufferers.

Mavis Nye Foundation - Here to help all 'Meso Warriors'

On 07 December 2017 Boyes Turner Solicitors attended the Mavis Nye Foundation launch party at the Richmond Hill Hotel.

The Mavis Nye Foundation was started by Mavis herself following her lengthy, but successful battle with mesothelioma that started in 2009.

Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer suffered as a result of exposure to asbestos, the Industrial Disease team at Boyes Turner help sufferers and their families to get compensation from former employers to provide for their families after they are gone or in the case of one of the teams most recent high profile cases making sure that there is funding for treatment that is not available on the NHS.

The foundation has many aims, though its primary ones are:

  1. To raise funds for vital research in to mesothelioma treatments and cures.
  2. To fund specialist mesothelioma medical experts and lung cancer nurses.
  3. To provide hardship grants to mesothelioma victims and their families.

The launch party was well attended with some 200 people attending to include medical experts, lawyers, scientists and a number of "Meso Warriors", the surviving family members of mesothelioma victims.

The party included a champagne reception, a 3-course silver service meal, a raffle, an auction and an evening of dancing from Mavis' son who provided a night of 60's music entertainment.

The evening raised thousands of pounds for the foundation and Boyes Turner were delighted to donate a number of prizes to the raffle and auction.

Below are a number of photographs from the evening.

 

If you would like to donate to the Mavis Nye Foundation please visit

Q&A - Defunct defendants

Q The company I worked for is long gone, can I pursue a claim?

It is common for people to have been employed by companies many years ago in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s which have since disappeared or been dissolved. We will search for the employers’ liability insurers for the period you were employed by the company. If we do manage to trace the applicable insurers, we can notify the insurers of your potential claim and obtain compensation from them.

Q In that case, would you sue the insurers directly?

Currently no.  It may be that we can negotiate a settlement prior to the issue of proceedings, but ultimately if the insurers are not willing to negotiate, we would need to issue the claim in the Court. Current legal practice is to issue proceedings against the company that employed you and we would need to make an application to the Companies Court to formally restore your employer to the Companies Register. This is a fairly straightforward process and is usually done “on the papers” without any need for a court hearing (which you would not be required to attend in any event).

Q Was a company required to have employers’ liability insurance?

Companies were required to have employers’ liability insurance from 1972 onwards. We have found that often large and indeed small companies had insurance prior to this date. The difficulty is that there was no requirement for the companies to keep a record of their insurance policies. There are several ways in which we can trace insurance though, including making an application to the Employers Liability Tracing Office, contacting former directors/secretaries, going through the old company records and accounts (to see if any premiums were paid to insurers) and instructing an insurance archaeologist.

Q What if no insurance can be found?

If no employers’ liability insurance can be found, then you can make an application under the Pneumoconiosis Workers Compensation Act for a lump sum from the Government.

Q I am suffering from mesothelioma though.  Surely some further compensation should be available?

Indeed!  An application can be made to the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme 2014 if you are suffering from mesothelioma. Further information can be found here. One of the criteria is that asbestos exposure must have occurred during employment where the employer is no longer in existence and no insurance can be traced. The asbestos exposure also needs to have occurred negligently.

Q I am suffering from mesothelioma but I do not think I was exposed during employment.  Am I eligible for a court or government award?

If you believe you contracted mesothelioma through washing a loved one’s clothes, through environmental exposure or some other way, then it may still be possible to pursue a civil claim through the court provided the company is still in existence, or we know the identity of the applicable public liability insurers. The DMPS 2014 is only designed for cases of employment, but smaller government awards are available via the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme 2008.  Please contact us for further information or visit this website. We can also advise whether it is possible to pursue claims where exposure happened during self-employment or through other means. Benefits may also be available and we recommend you contact Mesothelioma UK or we can direct you to a local support group to assist you with this.

If you or a family member have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, we may be able to help. Contact us on 0800 029 4808 or email IDClaims@boyesturner.com for a free initial discussion. 

Dreaming of a White (Asbestos) Christmas

For many of us, snow is synonymous with Christmas. Bing Crosby famously dreamt of it, while Christmas cards are often decorated with snow-filled scenes depicting a white Christmas.

The famous Bing Crosby scene was in the film Holiday Inn, where he sings “White Christmas” as snow falls around him. Unsurprisingly, artificial snow was used.  Shockingly, it was made from chrysotile asbestos.

In the beginning, cotton was used to make artificial snow but, in 1928, an article written by a firefighter advised people to stop using cotton as it is flammable, and instead to use asbestos. Consequently, asbestos-made snow became popular for many years.

Chrysotile asbestos is pure white in color, and greatly mimics the look of authentic snow. It was used in many Hollywood films. As well as Holiday Inn, it was also used in The Wizard of Oz in the scene where Dorothy and the scarecrow, tin man and lion are unconscious in a poppy field and the snow begins to fall.

Little did the cast members know that they were being showered with a potentially lethal carcinogen.

Due to the increasing popularity of artificial snow, manufacturers began making and marketing numerous brands for public use. Some of the more popular brands include “White Christmas,” “Snow Drift,” “White Magic,” and “Pure White.”

Shops also used asbestos snow for window displays and scenery, meaning that shoppers risked inhaling asbestos fibres while doing their Christmas shopping.

Today, fake snow and decorations can be made from materials with different types of fire retardant and the use of asbestos has been banned in the UK. But this does not mean that the problem has gone away. In many homes, traditional Christmas ornaments are saved for decades, passed down the generations and used to decorate the tree year after year. Some of these may have been purchased when asbestos snow was still in use and may still pose a threat decades later. It is fair to say that this would not result in heavy exposure, but it has been accepted for a long time that there is no safe level of exposure.

If you have any old Christmas ornaments that were around when asbestos was in use, we recommend that they are tested by a certified asbestos inspector.

We wish all our readers a happy (asbestos free) Christmas.

Boyes Turner Solicitors proudly supporting the Mavis Nye Foundation

Mavis Nye, the legendary “Meso Warrior” has recently established a charitable foundation to support mesothelioma victims and their families and to raise funds for research into mesothelioma treatments in the hope that a cure can be found to this horrible disease.

The objectives of the Mavis Nye Foundation (MNF) include:

·       To provide financial support to UK patients diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases who require assistance to access medical treatment, in particular, experimental medical treatment.

·       To reimburse travel expenses to individuals and their families during the search for effective treatment.

·       To offer grants for the advancement of laboratory and clinical research in the UK for the treatment of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

·       To encourage and support younger medical students to become mesothelioma specialists.

·       To award need-assessed scholarships or grants for attendance at British higher education institutions for health professionals intending to focus on mesothelioma nursing in the UK.

The MNF’s launch dinner event takes place on 07 December 2017 with a target of fundraising £1 million by mid-2018, just six months later.

Boyes Turner are offering the MNF our full support and recently hosted a talk presented by Mavis and her husband, Ray, at our annual mesothelioma and lung cancer study day. We will also be attending the launch night dinner to offer further support to Mavis.

If you would like to donate to the MNF or have any fundraising ideas please contact mavis@mavisnyefoundation.org

World Conference on Lung Cancer

The International Association for Lung Cancer (IASLC) is hosting the 18th World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) between the 15th and 18th of October 2017 in Yokohoma, Japan.

The WCLC is the world’s largest meeting dedicated to lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies.

Previous WCLC events were attended by more than 7,000 delegates from over 100 countries. Delegates attend the conference to discuss the latest developments in thoracic malignancy research.

Attendees include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pulmonologists, radiologists, pathologists, epidemiologists, basic research scientists, nurses and allied health professionals and patients.

The event aims to educate professionals working in lung cancer on various trials, medicines and treatments available to lung cancer patients and is a great way for professionals to network whilst working together to find a cure for this disease which affects 50,000 new patients in the UK each year.

Mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The UK has the second highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world, after the United States.

Boyes Turner, like the IASLC, are also dedicated to assisting medical professionals specialising in lung cancers and host our own lung cancer study day in September of each year.

If you would like to learn more about the IASLC, visit their website here or their facebook page here.

The IASLC website is full of useful information on lung cancer and much of that information is available in a range of languages so that it can benefit people from all around the world.

If you or someone you know has been affected by an asbestos related disease please contact us on 0800 029 4807 or email IDClaims@boyesturner.com for a free initial discussion.

Boyes Turner's Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer Study Day 2017

On 22 September 2017 Boyes Turner’s specialist asbestos claims team hosted their 4th Annual Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer Study Day at their Abbey Street offices in Reading.

The free event was chaired by Kim Smerdon, Partner at Boyes Turner who leads the asbestos claims team, assisted by Peter Olszewski, Solicitor, and was well attended.

The delegates were provided with an excellent update from a variety of medical, patient, nursing and legal contributors with speakers as follows:

  • Dr Stephen Ellis, Consultant Thoracic Radiologist, St Thomas’ Hospital
    “The radiology of asbestos related diseases and their mimics”
  • Dr Sam Hare, Consultant Chest Radiologist, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
    “Ambulatory Lung Biopsy – a new model for the UK”
  • Scott Bentley, Operations Director, Resource and Environmental Consultants Ltd
    “Asbestos in the workplace”
  • Simon Levene, Barrister, 12 Kings Bench Walk Chambers
    “What happens in mesothelioma litigation from the patient’s perspective?”
  • Anne Moylan, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Mesothelioma UK
    “Trials in mesothelioma care”
  • Mavis Nye, Surviving mesothelioma victim
    “The Mavis Nye Foundation”
  • Jane Canavan and Charlotte Merriman, Rehabilitation specialists, SOLACE, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford
    “Thoracic surgery rehabilitation”
  • Dr Alan McKenna, Associate Law Lecturer, The University of Kent
    “A critical analysis of issues across the asbestos spectrum”

The day was well received by the attending delegates, who had come from various different professional backgrounds but all with an interest in mesothelioma and lung cancer. Feedback including the following:

“Very insightful” “Inspirational” “Very informative”

“Very well organised”

“A very good insightful day, very well put together”

“Great day, felt looked after and now more informed, thank you” “Excellent facilities”

Dr Hare’s talk was particularly well received, describing his practice at Barnet Hospital of an alternative model for lung biopsy, resulting in a quicker discharge for the patient, thereby avoiding hospital admission. The knock-on effect of this is savings in clinical time and cost. The model, which is empowering for patients who are able to leave hospital quickly and go about their normal lives, also results in earlier lung cancer diagnoses in more patients.

Dr Ellis’s presentation, aided by visual representations, was an interesting reminder for all as to how asbestos disease presents in the lungs.

Scott Bentley’s “great session” had a wider interest to everyone in the room, not least on a personal level, as he described the ongoing dangers of asbestos in the modern day.

Barrister, Simon Levene, explained mesothelioma claims from a legal perspective in a way which the delegates understood and enjoyed.

The nurses in the audience found Anne Moylan’s talk about mesothelioma trials informative and relevant. It is hugely encouraging that there are now so many mesothelioma trials.

Everyone in the room found Mavis and Ray an inspiration, “the human voice” bringing mesothelioma to life.

Concluding the successful day, Jane Canavan and Charlotte Merriman spoke about thoracic surgery rehabilitation, which delegates found “relevant” and Alan McKenna gave a critical analysis of asbestos issues to close, which was “interesting”.

Our thanks to all the speakers and delegates involved who helped to make the day a great success.

APIL Members to provide feedback on the Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme

The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme was introduced in 2014 to compensate people who were exposed to asbestos during their employment, in cases where the employers are dissolved and the employer’s liability insurers can’t be traced.  The eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • Mesothelioma was diagnosed on or after 25 July 2012.
  • The mesothelioma was caused by negligent exposure to asbestos during employment.
  • All the employers who exposed the victim to asbestos cannot be traced.
  • No civil claim has been made against any employer or insurer.
  • The claim is made within 3 years of the date of diagnosis.
  • The relevant employer’s liability insurers can’t be traced.
  • Dependant of someone who has died in the past 12 months due to mesothelioma.

The Scheme now pays out 100% of the average amount awarded in civil claims for those diagnosed on or after 10 February 2015.   The Scheme pays out 80% of the average amount awarded for those diagnosed with mesothelioma between 25 July 2012 and 9 February 2015. 

Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)

All our solicitors are members of the Associate of Personal Injury Lawyers and we regularly help clients make applications to the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme. [Kate – please link “help clients make applications” to https://www.industrialdiseaselawyers.co.uk/our-cases/industrial-disease/160000-gross-recovered-from-diffuse-mesothelioma-payment-scheme]

One of the most respected organisations in this field, APIL has been fighting for the rights of injured people for over 25 years, working hard on their behalf and campaigning to ensure that injured people receive the compensation they deserve. APIL’s work and that of its members makes a tangible difference to the lives of injured people.   

APIL works closely with many of Boyes Turner’s favourite charities including Mesothelioma UK.

APIL have invited their members to provide important feedback on the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme.  Administration of the Scheme is monitored by committee which includes Bridget Collier from APIL’s Executive Committee.  Our lawyers will, of course, be providing any feedback to APIL, but if you have any comments about your experience with the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme, whether positive or negative, we should be glad to hear it and we can pass on your views to APIL.

Feedback needs to be received ideally before 30 October.

Plans to reopen two asbestos mines in Zimbabwe

A report in the African independent newspaper has revealed that Zimbabwe is planning to re-open two asbestos mines before the end of the year.

Prior to the closure of the two asbestos mines, “Shabanie” and “Mashava” 8 years ago,  Zimbabwe was the sixth biggest miner of asbestos in the world. Zimbabwe has other asbestos mines that have continued operating over the last 8 years, but the closures significantly reduced the country’s mining and export activities.

Worryingly, it is the Zimbabwean authorities that want the country to regain its status as a leading asbestos mining and exporting country, and by re-opening the two mines the government seeks to regain this status.

The Zimbabwean government has entered in to an agreement with the Chinese company, XCMG, which will secure a capital injection of $100 million to assist in re-opening the mines and purchasing essential mining equipment.

The Zimbabwean Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa has said:

“We have secured domestic and international markets for asbestos … … We are going to sell our products to Russia, India and Kazakhstan before the end of the year.”

Why is the Zimbabwean government so keen to re-start asbestos mining?

  • Firstly, it is reported that the re-opening of the mines will create 10,000 jobs
  • The government will save an estimated $5m annually from asbestos imports
  • The mines are expected to create annual revenue in excess of $40m in foreign currency for Zimbabwe

The decision to re-open the mines appears to have been based solely on profit. What the Zimbabwean government is failing to address, however, is the health implications of exposure to asbestos.

Exposure to asbestos can cause health conditions, such as pleural thickening, asbestosis, asbestos-induced lung cancer and mesothelioma, the latter two conditions being fatal diseases.

The people most at risk from asbestos-related disease from the re-opening of the mines will be the miners themselves. The miners’ families, people living in the vicinity of the mine, workers involved in the manufacture asbestos products and those who purchase and use the asbestos will also be at a high risk of suffering asbestos-related disease.

Boyes Turner previously published an article on the countries that still mine and export asbestos which can be read here.

Boyes Turner support the call for asbestos mining and export to be banned by all countries due to the deadly effects of the mineral.

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