The legacy of asbestos will sit with us for many years to come. Far from an uncomfortable relic of our industrial history, thousands are diagnosed with asbestos related conditions every year and the figures do not appear to be slowing as quickly as had been hoped.
Once hailed as a miracle material throughout the industrial world, asbestos was commonly used for insulation and fireproofing for most of the Twentieth Century. Now asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. It is estimated that well over 5000 people die from asbestos related deaths in the UK every year. That equates to over 100 deaths every week, including at least 8 women. The latest projection is that this will continue until at least the end of the current decade when numbers should start to decline.
The South West, and Plymouth in particular, has a significant ongoing burden of the disease due to high levels of asbestos exposure from the dockyards. Currently the region sees around 60 people diagnosed each year with mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos.
Although asbestos is now banned in the UK, it can take decades for asbestos related conditions to develop, which is why we will continue to see a steady number of cases for a number of years to come. It is frightening to think of the numbers of people who may have been affected by asbestos but don’t yet know it.
Medical professionals are also concerned that there could be a second wave of asbestos related conditions in the future from those who have unwittingly been exposed from DIY and construction works. Any building constructed before 2000 could contain asbestos, and many still do in corrugated roofs, floor and ceiling tiles and insulated pipework. Once disturbed deadly asbestos fibres are released and can be inhaled. That puts anyone carrying out work on older buildings, including their own homes, at risk. Inhaling even small amounts of asbestos can cause devastating consequences many years down the line.
Those who are affected by asbestos related conditions often face a devastating future. Not surprisingly many seek compensation, which is often about much more than just money.
Many of our clients are angry that they were exposed to such a deadly substance when the risks of asbestos exposure have been known for many years. In fact the first medical article on the hazards of asbestos dust appeared in the British Medical Journal as long ago as 1924. Yet despite this, asbestos remained in widespread use until the 1980s. For them, compensation is a question of what is rightfully due to them. It can also provide peace of mind in knowing that you are providing a means of financial security for your family when your life is cut short.
Raising awareness of asbestos and its effects also remains vitally important. In the South West we are lucky to benefit from one of only 15 Specialist Mesothelioma Clinical Nurse Specialists in the UK (based at Derriford Hospital), part of whose role is to support and educate more people on all aspects of mesothelioma. The role is funded by the charity Mesothelioma UK and provides a vital lifeline for patients in the area. Patients and their families are also supported by the South West Mesothelioma Support Group, who work tirelessly to raise local awareness of asbestos related cancer. Like these, many asbestos initiatives rely on the generosity of donations and dedicated fundraisers.
If you have any concerns about asbestos related conditions or want to find out about bringing a claim for compensation contact Wolferstans on 01752 663295.