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Firefighter awarded compensation following asbestos exposure

A former Suffolk firefighter has been awarded “substantial damages” from the county council after being exposed to asbestos over the course of his career.

The man came into contact with asbestos in unprotected conditions while tackling power station and factory fires across the region between 1969 and 1992.

The 73-year-old, a former retained firefighter employed by Suffolk County Council, fell ill with pleural thickening. It is thought that his exposure to asbestos occurred in commercial buildings constructed with large amounts of asbestos, which would have been airborne during the fires and contained within the debris. Breathing apparatus were not worn routinely and neither the man nor his colleagues were advised that it was necessary to protect themselves while attending fires or when raking through the debris, extinguishing the hotspots. The firefighters would be routinely located inside and outside burning buildings, unprotected from the ash, debris and asbestos fibres around them.

The man said he believed he deserved compensation after “years of diligent service” risking his life to fight fires across the region.  In addition to his pleural thickening, the man still runs the risk of contracting mesothelioma, a terminal form of cancer.

The man reflected that “Looking back on my early days in the service I recall the importance of breathing equipment wasn’t as well-known as it is today,” he said. “While breathing in noxious smoke was a worry for me and my colleagues, the potential health risks of inhaling asbestos were simply not thought about or explained to us. I often see reports in the news of other firefighters who have gone on to develop mesothelioma, a terminal form of asbestos cancer and other debilitating asbestos conditions and I believe sufferers such as myself, need to be fairly compensated after years of diligent service.”

Pleural thickening, also known as diffuse pleural thickening (DPT), is a lung disease in which extensive scarring thickens the lining of the lungs (the pleura). The condition may cause chest pain and breathing difficulty, and it is one of the most commonly diagnosed signs of asbestos exposure.

In its earliest stages, pleural thickening has no symptoms. As more and more rigid scar tissue grows around the lungs, it becomes harder for them to fully expand when the patient breathes.

Asbestos exposure is commonly attributed as being the cause of pleural thickening. Asbestos is a general term used for a group of fibrous minerals known for their thermal resistance, strength and acoustic insulation. Several types of asbestos were commonly used commercially such as blue asbestos (crocidolite), brown asbestos (amosite) and white asbestos (chrysotile).

The symptoms of pleural thickening can often take up to 20 years to develop and most commonly present as: a persistent cough, breathlessness, wheezing, chest pain. It is most commonly diagnosed on chest xrays and CT scans.


Johnathan Steventon-Kiy, specialist industrial disease lawyer, says:

“Sadly cases of pleural thickening are common in those who worked in commercial trades such as electricians, plumbers, boiler makers, building and construction workers and any other trades in which asbestos was commonly used. However, as can be seen in this example, those who came into contact with asbestos for other reasons can be affected. The effects of pleural thickening can be very debilitating and it is important that an experienced specialist asbestos disease solicitor assists the Claimant, or their estate, to ensure that the correct amount of compensation is received. The specialist solicitors in Biscoes Industrial Disease team have many years of experience pursuing these sorts of cases.”

Contact our specialist personal injury, medical negligence and industrial disease solicitors on 0800 413 463 or visit for more information. You can also follow us on twitter using the handle @biscoesmedneg


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The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.