What are pleural plaques?

Posted: 10th Oct 18 8:30 AM

Pleural plaques are caused by exposure to asbestos – a naturally occurring mineral used widely in industry and construction throughout the mid-20th century – but do not develop until 10-50 years after exposure.

Pleural plaques are areas of localised scarring or calcification found on the pleura – the lining of the lungs and rib-cage.

The pleura is a thin membrane found on the inside of the rib-cage and also surrounds each lung. It is a protective tissue and is made up of two layers – the inner layer, known as the visceral pleura, and the outer layer, known as the parietal pleura. These layers line the lungs and the inside of the rib-cage, respectively.

Together, the two layers allow for smooth and unrestricted movement of the lungs within the chest cavity.

What causes pleural plaques?

Pleural plaques form when inhaled asbestos fibres become stuck in the lung tissue. From the regular movement made when you breathe, they can work their way through to the pleura, which in turn can become torn and damaged.

As this damage made by the asbestos heals, it can scar and become calcified, forming pleural plaques.

Pleural plaques are usually “focal” in nature – they only form in small, singular areas.

It only takes minimal exposure to asbestos dust and fibres to cause pleural plaques to develop. For this reason, many people who worked in a variety of professions are at a higher risk of developing the disease. These professions include, but are not limited to:

  • Carpenters and joiners
  • Heating and ventilation engineers
  • Pipe fitters
  • Painters and decorators
  • Shipwrights
  • Electricians and electrical fitters
  • Energy plant operatives
  • Railway engineers

What are the symptoms of pleural plaques?

In almost all cases of pleural plaques there are no symptoms and they cause no problems to long term health. Pleural plaques simply indicate that there has been exposure to asbestos.

Can you claim compensation for pleural plaques?

Unfortunately, compensation for pleural plaques is only available to individuals who were exposed to asbestos in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Although you can’t claim compensation for pleural plaques in England or Wales, we are still able to help claim compensation should you go on to develop another asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma, pleural thickening, asbestosis or asbestos-related lung cancer.

The South Wales Asbestos Support Group have set up a petition with the aim of getting compensation for pleural plaques reinstated – you can sign their petition here.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with pleural plaques and are worried you could have symptoms of another asbestos-related disease, or were exposed in either Scotland or Northern Ireland, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the National Asbestos Helpline. We are here to help you with advice about your condition and can also advise on any benefits and/ or compensation you might be entitled to. Call us on Freephone 0800 043 6635, or email enquiries@nationalasbestos.co.uk.

Further reading

What is asbestos exposure?

What is the asbestos compensation claims process?

Can you claim for pleural plaques?

Why is asbestos dangerous?