Pleural plaques is a condition caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres. It affects the linings of the lungs, which thicken over a period of time. Although the disease is not life-threatening, being diagnosed with pleural plaques is a clear sign that the victim has had prolonged exposure to asbestos.
An issue has arisen in Scotland, however, in relation to compensation claims pursued by the victims. As the law currently stands, those diagnosed with pleural plaques have to judge whether or not they might suffer a more serious asbestos-related illness in the future.
According to the Southern Reporter, under the current scheme, they can accept a smaller settlement for pleural plaques and be eligible to claim again for any asbestos-related disease they may suffer in the future. Alternatively, they can agree to a larger payout but this would be in full and final settlement.
In essence, that would mean they had no further recourse to the courts should they become ill with mesothelioma, for example, or any other type of cancer attributed to asbestos exposure.
An academic report produced by the University of Stirling has questioned the ethics of this situation. Researchers from the university have said that this dilemma should be addressed by the Scottish Parliament.
So what types of illness could people with pleural plaques be facing? Two of the most common diseases are:
Mesothelioma: an aggressive and untreatable form of cancer that attacks the inner lining of the lungs. According to the Health and Safety Executive there were 2,538 deaths from the disease in 2013. Asbestos fibres are inhaled and lie within the lining of the lungs, causing severe shortness of breath and a persistent cough.
Asbestosis is incurable and causes irreparable lung damage. Health and Safety figures show that 464 deaths may have been caused by asbestosis in 2012. The disease often becomes worse over a period of time, and sufferers are more likely to be at risk of mesothelioma or other types of lung cancer in the future.
An alternative compensation scheme for victims of asbestos exposure
Alternative schemes used in Europe address the problem currently experienced by Scottish sufferers of pleural plaques. These schemes for compensation allow victims to accept an award for their current condition, but not be prevented from taking further action should it be necessary further down the line.
A meeting is due to be held to discuss the situation with cross-party MSPs, campaign groups, legal firms and trade union representatives all attending.
Writer, James Kelman who once worked as an asbestos mixer, said:
“At this period in the struggle the work being done by the University of Stirling is crucial. The Scottish Parliament has the chance to show here its commitment and support not only to the Research Group but to the many thousands of people whose health has been damaged irreparably, and fatally in too many cases.”
Asbestos awareness training courses
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the body responsible for worker safety in the UK, and they legislate for the type of training that employers need to provide. Asbestos training courses can be taken online or in the classroom, but online learning offers greater flexibility to both employer and employee.
UKATA online training takes just 90 minutes, and you can download your HSE asbestos certificate immediately after successful completion of the end-of-course quiz.