Pleural plaques are areas of thickening or scarring which occur on the parietal pleura, most commonly on the lower chest walls and diaphragm. They take the form of small, hard, plate-like raised surfaces of calcified tissue, similar to arteriosclerosis in coronary arteries. These changes are visible on x-ray and can cause impairment of the lung. However in most cases will not produce any symptoms, so you may be unaware that you have them.
The “pleural cavity” is a closed space within the chest walls that houses the lungs. The “pleura” is a thin, transparent membrane that covers the lungs and lines the inside of the chest walls. There are two layers of this membrane. The inner (visceral) layer of the pleura is attached to the lungs and the outer (parietal) layer is attached to the chest wall. A small amount of fluid usually fills the gap between the parietal and visceral layers of pleura. This fluid is produced by cells in the pleura called “mesothelial cells”. The pleural membranes prevent the lung from making direct contact with the chest wall and the diaphragm.
Plaques are simply a marker of asbestos exposure and usually do not develop until 20 years or more after first exposure to asbestos. Pleural plaques alone are not prejudicial to health. However, because they are evidence of asbestos exposure, they can indicate that the sufferer is at a small risk of developing a more serious asbestos-related condition such as pleural thickening, asbestosis, mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer.
The Department for Work and Pensions (“DWP”) will not pay any benefits for this condition.
Prior to 2007 civil compensation could be claimed through the courts. A civil claim was based on the fact that pleural plaques were seen as a marker of exposure to asbestos. Most doctors will accept that they cannot exclude the possibility that someone who has pleural plaques will develop a more serious asbestos-related condition in the future.
As a result of a House of Lords Decision in 2007 it is not now possible to pursue a civil law claim for compensation against a former employer / occupier of premises for pleural plaques alone as the Courts do not currently recognise this as a significant injury for which compensation is payable.
Please note that if you suffer pleural plaques in addition to a disabling asbestos related disease then you will still be able to pursue a claim for compensation.
We would urge anyone who suffers from pleural plaques to contact their local MP to press for a change in the law so that sufferers of this condition may be compensated in future.