Pleural plaques are a non-cancerous lung disease that can be caused by asbestos exposure. They are the most common disease caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos-related pleural plaques are caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres which bind themselves to the soft lining of the lungs (the pleura) and cause inflammation. Over time, the soft lining can become fibrous and stiff. This is sometimes called scar tissue.
You can develop pleural plaques from any amount of exposure to asbestos, although workers are most at risk. A 2016 study found that 36 per cent of workers surveyed had developed pleural plaques following industrial exposure, compared to 18 per cent of people surveyed from the general public who had been exposed to asbestos developed plaques. You may develop pleural plaques and not know you were ever exposed to asbestos. A 2017 study found that 74 per cent of people surveyed who had pleural plaques “consistently denied” exposure to asbestos.
Pleural plaques are benign and are often detected without showing any symptoms. Over time the “scarring” can get worse and cause a condition known as pleural thickening, which can cause some shortness of breath and/or chest pain.
It is important to know that pleural plaques are not cancer and they do not “develop” into cancer. However, asbestos exposure increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer. In fact, people who have had exposure to asbestos and tobacco smoke have a much higher risk of developing lung cancer than the average population.
There is no cure for pleural plaques. Treatment is not usually necessary as pleural plaques are benign and often do not result in a loss of lung function. That said, when pleural plaques are very extensive, they can cause lung restriction and chest pain. This is sometimes referred to as asbestos-related pleural disease.
If you are diagnosed with pleural plaques, it is important that you manage the condition appropriately with your doctor. You should seek to reduce further risk by quitting smoking, avoiding further exposure to asbestos, and minimising your exposure to airborne pollution such as smoke.
If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, even in a small quantity, you should inform your doctor. You should also complete the online registration form on our website so that we have a record of your exposure to asbestos.
In most cases, there is no pleural plaques compensation.
Australian courts have only awarded compensation for pleural plaques when they cause symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. In these circumstances, plaques would be correctly categorised as asbestos-related pleural disease.
Given that pleural plaques are an indicator of past asbestos exposure, people who bring compensation claims for other asbestos-related conditions often also have pleural plaques.
Other asbestos-related conditions that you can claim compensation for include:
Most states in Australia have time limits for bringing compensation claims for asbestos-related diseases. These time limits generally run from the date you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease. The law in this area can be complex and it is important to get legal advice from an expert.
The answer to this question depends broadly on when and where you were exposed. Any legal advice about asbestos compensation needs to be tailored to your individual circumstances.
Most states have workers’ compensation schemes as well as an entitlement to sue for negligence. Negligence claims are brought when another party, such as an asbestos manufacturer or an employer, has done the wrong thing by you, exposing you to asbestos without warning or protection, and this has caused you to develop an asbestos-related disease.
In some circumstances, dependants of someone who passes away from an asbestos-related disease may also have entitlements.
When navigating compensation for asbestos-related illnesses, you need an expert who can give you tailored advice to maximise your entitlements and help you through the process with as little stress as possible.
At Gordon Legal, we understand that pleural plaques are a personal issue.
For personalised and individual advice, we offer consultations to discuss your matter.
Please call Gordon Legal on (03) 9603 3000 or our Geelong office on (03) 5225 1600 to speak with a member of our team.
Given the current environment, we are providing consultations over the phone or via video conferencing platforms.
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