Recent calls for changes to how industrial disease claims are funded could have wider implications for both sufferers, and the businesses responsible for exposing them to harmful substances.

Revisions to the existing legislation has come from medical solicitors asking the Welsh government to make changes, allowing the government to recover claim costs from other organisations.

Asbestos was used for several decades within the construction industry, primarily as a fire-retardant, amongst other uses. Although asbestos as a construction material has been banned from use since 1999, workers on sites constructed prior to this date still risk exposure to the harmful substance, and as symptoms can take several decades to develop, asbestososis sufferers are often unaware of the exposure they have undergone, until long after the fact. Sufferers may experience lung scarring, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

With more than 4,500 sufferers dying from asbestos-related illnesses every year in the UK, it remains a persistent and highly concerning problem.

The calls for amendments to the existing legislation have arisen following considerations of whether current practices sufficiently meet the financial costs of asbestos-related claims. Annually, costs in treating asbestos patients add up to over £2 million in Wales, and the proposed legislation could allow the Welsh government to recover costs from other public bodies.

However, this has raised questions about whether this is simply passing on the burden of costs from one body to another, with no measurable benefit to either the NHS or asbestos sufferers. Ministers will consider both the mechanics of the funding process, and whether other costs, such as those for continued palliative care, will also be covered by any new proposed tariff.

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