A former firefighter from Merseyside has received substantial compensation after he developed the asbestos-related condition, pleural thickening.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) member John Ford, 85, was first exposed to asbestos in 1951 when he was employed as a labourer at a shipyard, working in boiler rooms and near pipework that was insulated with asbestos.

From 1954 to 1984 he worked as a firefighter, where he was again exposed to asbestos when dealing with fires in buildings that contained asbestos.

During John’s training for the fire service he was given protective breathing equipment, but early in his career it would only be used on officers’ instructions.

When he began to suffer breathing difficulties he visited his GP who discovered fluid on his lung. Further tests confirmed that he had developed pleural thickening.

The condition is disabling and leaves him at risk of developing more serious asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma.

John contacted the FBU and instructed asbestos disease specialists, Thompsons Solicitors, to investigate a compensation claim.

He also had support for benefit claims from the Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group.

He said: “When I started as a firefighter, the importance of breathing equipment wasn’t as well-known as it is today. Breathing in the smoke was something that I always worried about, but I didn’t ever think about the risks of inhaling asbestos.

“The diagnosis was a complete shock and I’m now very concerned about how my health might be affected longer term. I feel lucky to have had support from the FBU and Thompsons to be compensated for my disease.”

Dave Green, FBU national officer, said: “John was a dedicated firefighter for three decades, but as a result of the negligent actions of his employer, he now suffers from a completely preventable illness. His membership to the FBU meant that we could support him with his claim so his employers were held to account.”

Joanne Candlish, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Being diagnosed with an asbestos disease is difficult to come to terms with. At Thompsons, we know all too well that our clients and their families’ lives can be turned upside down following a diagnosis of asbestos disease.

“Our legal expertise led us to successfully concluding John’s claim on a provisional damages basis, so that if his health deteriorates in the future because of his condition, he can reopen his case to claim further compensation.”