Members of Irish Defence Forces Exposed to Risk of Asbestosis

Hundreds of members of the Irish Defence Forces are faced with a worrying future after it recently emerged in the media that members of both the Irish Army and Navy were exposed to asbestos while in the line of duty.
Over 300 Irish soldiers were exposed to asbestos while carrying out peacekeeping duties in East Timor but they were not informed of this fact for almost a decade when troops were written to by military officials in January of 2011 notwithstanding the fact that the United Nations was tipped off about the problem by East Timor’s Department of Health in 2002.
The exposure is reported to have occurred through asbestos-constructed buildings having been used to house military personnel.  While these buildings would not present a hazard in normal circumstances, the risk of asbestosis exposure arose when they were structurally compromised as a result of civilian unrest that took place between 1999 and 2002.  This damage gave rise to the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres by the soldiers concerned.
Meanwhile it has emerged that certain members of the Irish Naval Service may have been exposed to asbestos dust while working on the LÉ Ciara while carrying out routine maintenance work in the naval dockyard in Haulbowline, Co. Cork, recently.
Certain civilian workers employed by the Department of Defence are also said to be at risk due to their potential exposure to asbestos while working on the LÉ Ciara and her sister ship, the LÉ Orla.
The tell-tale signs of asbestosis are shortness of breath and a marked deterioration in aerobic stamina.  In other words, sufferers will find themselves huffing and puffing after engaging in relatively minor exertion.  Typically victims experience crackling or rattling noises made by their lungs when breathing in and deformities of the fingers and fingernails known as “clubbing”.
Other symptoms include:

  • chronic coughing;
  • chest pain;
  • swelling in the neck or face;
  • blood in expectorated mucus;
  • difficulty in swallowing;
  • weight loss; and
  • loss of appetite.

Asbestosis victims have a significantly enhanced risk of going on to develop lung cancer.  Other illnesses that may result from asbestosis include high blood pressure, heart disease, other related lung complications, and various other cancers.
The development period for the disease can range from anywhere between around 10 years and 50 years.  Asbestosis typically manifests itself between 10 and 20 years after exposure.
Normally an injured person only has two years from the date that the event giving rise to their injuries occurred to commence a claim for compensation.  If they don’t bring their claim within this two-year period, their claim will become statute-barred.  However, the Statute of Limitations provides that this two-year period will not begin to run against an injured person until the date upon which they become aware of all of the following pieces of information:

  • They have been injured.
  • The injury which they have suffered is significant.
  • The injury was caused by the fault of someone else.
  • The identity of the person who caused you the injury.
  • If the fault for the injury lies with someone other than the person who is liable to compensate them, the identity of the person who actually caused the injury and the legal basis as to why the person you are claiming against is liable.

It follows that if any one suspects that they may be suffering from symptoms of asbestosis the obvious initial response is to seek immediate medical attention.  However, once all appropriate medical treatment has been administered it would be prudent to seek legal advice without delay as the long development period of the disease could give rise to potential difficulties in successfully securing compensation for personal injuries under the Statute of Limitations if action is not taken swiftly.
If you believe that you or anyone you know is suffering from the effects of asbestosis feel free to call us in complete confidence and without commitment on Free Phone 1800 989 111 or email John McCarthy at john@mccarthy.ie.

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John specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims. His practice focuses on high value compensation cases. He has extensive experience in this area of litigation for over 10 years. Read more