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Asbestosis is a serious, long-term lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos dust over a prolonged period.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibre that was widely used for various industrial purposes, such as insulation and ship-building until the mid 1980s.  Since the health effects of asbestos started to become clear, the supply and use of asbestos and asbestos products has been banned for all but a few exceptions by the Asbestos (Prohibition) Regulations. There are three main types of asbestos - often called white, brown and blue asbestos. The use of blue and brown asbestos (the two most dangerous forms) are banned by totally law and only white asbestos is used in the UK in exceptional circumstances.

People working in industries where asbestosis was used extensively, such as demolition work, plumbing, and at power stations,  were likely to have been exposed to breathing in fibres of asbestos often over a period of years. Changes in the lung occur slowly - asbestosis can take 20 years or more to develop – so ill effects were not instantly traceable to asbestos.

Asbestosis is one of a number of conditions that can be caused by exposure to asbestos. Other related conditions include mesothelioma (a malignant tumour in the lung) and benign pleural thickening (the lining of the lung is thickened and hardened). At least 3500 people in Great Britain die each year from mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer as a result of past exposure to asbestos.