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Former ship cleaner awarded compensation after being exposed to asbestos

30th June 2015

A ship cleaner from Sholing has been awarded compensation after he became exposed to asbestos working for former employer, Vosper Thornycroft of Woolston in the late sixties.

71-year-old Alexander Lobban, originally thought his symptoms were associated with his agoraphobia, which brings on panic attacks when he leaves the house. “I had been experiencing breathing problems for some time, after a while I realised that this may be something more and decided to investigate through my GP,” says Alexander.

“After being referred for an x-ray, I was asked if I had ever worked with asbestos and was diagnosed with pleural thickening. Doctors explained that this condition was caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres, which affect the thin membrane covering the lungs, causing extensive scarring.

“As the scar tissue grows, it can encase the lung and close off the space between the lungs and pleura. The condition is one of the most commonly diagnosed signs of asbestos exposure, causing chest pain and a significant decline in breathing function, which deteriorates as you get older.”

Through his job as a cleaner, Alexander would often work on the war ships which were built and maintained in the Hampshire area. He would frequently sweep the mess left by tradesmen after they had carried out maintenance work on the ships. “I never wore protective clothing whilst sweeping the dust and rubbish from the floor, and was never warned about the dangers of inhaling asbestos or working in such close vicinity to the tradesmen,” continues Alexander.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material which was regularly used as an insulation and fire proofing solution from the 1950s until the late 1990s. Before it was banned, asbestos found its way into products such as ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, boilers, sprayed coatings and garage roof tiles; even a small amount of exposure has been known to lead to fatal lung conditions later in life.

After being told that he had been exposed to asbestos, Alexander approached asbestos-related disease specialist, Nicky Howe of Moore Blatch to obtain advice and identify how this might have occurred. She worked with Alexander, investigating his work history and pinpointed when he had become exposed. Through legal proceedings, Nicky was able to quickly secure a settlement on behalf of Alexander.

The firm is now working with Alexander to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos exposure, which despite its ban can still occur today in ordinary households, public buildings, as well as work environments.

Action Mesothelioma Day on 3 July 2015 will remember those that have been exposed to asbestos and presents a good opportunity to encourage people to visit their GP for an early diagnosis, following symptoms of breathlessness and chest pain.

Nicky comments: “In our experience early symptoms of severe breathlessness often progress onto frequent chest infections, which can be confused and associated with other common conditions.

“GPs must be encouraged to refer patients with such symptoms much earlier. Often preliminary respiratory problems and chest infections are treated with antibiotics, which do not deal with the underlying lung condition and can leave many people struggling to cope with re-occurring symptoms, who are often unable to work.”

In some cases, pleural thickening can go on to develop into mesothelioma, diagnosing mesothelioma in its earliest stages is of huge advantage to patients as it can lead to a better prognosis and a wider range of treatment options.

Nicky concludes: “The number of people being diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions is due to peak over the next two years and Southampton is a particular hotspot as a result of its maritime history – it is incredibly important that people are aware of the early symptoms of asbestos exposure to get the help they need quickly.”

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