What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural fibre, which up to the 1980s was commonly used in construction. Due to its fire-retardant and heat insulating qualities, it was used in a huge variety of building materials from floor or ceiling tiles to boiler lagging.

Despite the link between asbestos exposure and ill health having been known as long ago as the early 1900s, and without doubt from the 1960s, the use of asbestos in the UK was not completely banned until the late 1990s. When asbestos is exposed to heat it can easily be reduced to a powder and then become airborne, which makes it a particular hazard to firefighters who run the risk of inhaling the microscopic fibres.

It is normally a long time after exposure, often anywhere between 10 and 50 years, that people who are going to develop an asbestos disease begin to develop the symptoms. However, the nature of the fibres means not all people who have been exposed will develop a condition.


The threat remains

According to Helen Tomlin, Thompsons Solicitors’ specialist asbestos solicitor: “Due to its continuing presence in many buildings today, asbestos remains a serious concern for firefighters across the country and the risks of coming into contact with asbestos need to be considered whenever firefighters enter a burning building.

“Today, firefighters are normally fitted out with personal protective equipment, but asbestos exposure can still occur. While not everyone who has been will become ill as a result, it is important for all firefighters to be aware of the danger asbestos continued to pose, and what to do if they are worried about any potential exposure.

“Firefighters who have been working for many years, including those who are now long-retired firefighters, would not always have had access to the right equipment to minimise the risk of asbestos exposure. Until relatively recently, many were regularly going into buildings containing asbestos with extremely limited protection. That’s why being aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure, even into retirement, can be life changing for union members and their loved ones.”


Asbestos disease diagnosis? Talk to us for advice and support on how to secure compensation.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we can support you with advice on how to make a claim.

The process will be explained in plain English and with no obligation – our priority is to provide you with the best, expert advice on whether you have a valid case for compensation, and to signpost you to further sources of support.

There are strict time limits applied to making a claim – usually three years from the date of diagnosis. It doesn’t matter if the exposure to asbestos took place – as it often does – decades ago, the three year time limit applies to the date of knowledge of diagnosis or date of death.

For further information, visit our How to Make A Compensation Claim page.