What is pneumoconiosis?

Posted: 18th Feb 21 1:00 PM

Pneumoconiosis refers to a group of lung diseases caused by the inhalation of dusts, usually over extended periods of time.

Breathing in dusts over long periods of time, such as through occupational exposure, can cause fibrosis, a scarring on the lungs, resulting in breathing problems and severe shortness of breath.

The most common types of pneumoconiosis are coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, caused by inhaling coal dust, and silicosis, caused by inhaling crystalline silica.

Symptoms of pneumoconiosis diseases include coughing, inflammation and fibrosis of the lungs.

Does asbestos cause pneumoconiosis?

Inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres can cause serious lung diseases to develop, such as pleural thickening, mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer.

Inhaling large amounts of asbestos over prolonged periods of time can cause a specific form of pneumoconiosis, called asbestosis, to develop later in life.

Asbestosis, like other types of pneumoconiosis, is a severe scarring and fibrosis of the lungs.

Asbestosis is a very slow-paced respiratory disease and, like most other asbestos-related diseases, takes between 10 and 50 years to develop after initial exposure.

The severity of this respiratory disease can vary from person to person. Asbestosis progresses slowly and in many cases will remain stable for a long period of time.

Early symptoms of asbestosis are much less noticeable compared to symptoms of other asbestos-related diseases, and are often dismissed as a sign of old age. If you are worried about developing asbestosis, or have been exposed to large amounts of asbestos, you should look out for the following symptoms:

  • Breathlessness through minimal exertion
  • Consistent and regular tiredness
  • A persistent cough, lasting for 3 weeks or more
  • Hypertension
  • Chest pains

It is possible to have a degree of asbestosis and not suffer from any symptoms. In these cases the disease might only be revealed because of an incidental scan or other diagnostic procedure.

If you have been diagnosed with asbestosis, or another asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, pleural thickening or lung cancer, please get in touch with the National Asbestos Helpline. We’re here to help you with advice about your condition and can also advise on compensation and/ or any benefits you might be entitled to. Call us on Freephone 0800 043 6645, or email enquiries@nationalasbestos.co.uk.

Further reading

What are the signs and symptoms of asbestosis?

Why is asbestos dangerous?

What is the asbestos compensation claims process?

Is there a time limit on asbestos compensation claims?