Asbestos related pleural plaques are a marker of previous exposure to asbestos dust and fibre which are evident on a lung x-ray or CT scan. They are the most common form of asbestos related disease. They are a form of fibrosis or scarring that are caused by exposure to asbestos and form on the parietal pleura, which is the lining underneath the chest wall.  Asbestos related pleural plaques can be caused by small, non-occupational, exposure to asbestos.

To make a claim for compensation in relation to exposure to asbestos dust and fibre, it is necessary to prove that the person claiming has suffered exposure to asbestos dust, that they are suffering from an asbestos related disease, and that the asbestos related disease has caused an impairment or disability, sufficient for an award of damages.

Usually, the major issue in a claim for pleural plaques is proving that the condition is the cause of impairment or disability.  Because of their location, pleural plaques usually do not cause any restriction on a person’s ability to breathe properly.  Therefore, they are usually not the cause of any respiratory symptoms.  The medical profession agree that in almost every case, pleural plaques are asymptomatic.

In the case of Torrens v James Hardie & Coy Pty Ltd [1990] NSWDDT 6, His Honour Judge O’Meally, the past President of the Dust Diseases Tribunal of New South Wales, refused damages to a complainant with nothing more than a pleural plaque condition which was causing no respiratory impairment.

However, there are always exceptions to the general rule.  In some sufferers, pleural plaques can be particularly thick or extensive.  When this occurs, pleural plaques can cause a restriction in the sufferer’s ability to breathe properly. Extensive or thick plaques can be referred to as “diffuse pleural thickening”.  The impairment is usually assessed by way of a lung function test, carried out in a respiratory clinic or hospital.

There are also reported cases of pleural plaques causing chest pain due to the entrapment and/or irritation of nerves on the surface of the pleura, such as in the case of Resi Corporation v Munzer [2016] SASCFC 15.

Should you suffer from asbestos related pleural plaques, it is still important to obtain legal advice regarding possible entitlements to claim compensation.  Further, because pleural plaques are only caused by exposure to asbestos, the sufferer is always at some risk of contracting other asbestos related diseases.  Monitoring may be required with regular chest x-rays, CT scans or lung function tests.

Get in touch with us

At Turner Freeman, we have specialist dust diseases lawyers who will assess your case and provide personalised advice regarding your legal entitlements. Our lawyers are located across South Australia, including at our offices in Adelaide, Aberfoyle Park and Whyalla. We also travel to see clients at hospitals and their homes.

Strict time limits can apply, so if you would like to obtain advice about your entitlements and/or wish to investigate a potential claim for compensation, please contact our dust diseases team on 08 8213 1000.