Asbestos exposure, leading to fatal diseases such as mesothelioma, tends to be thought of as predominantly affecting sections of society who were either involved in the manufacture of, or worked with asbestos products. The risk spread to affect individuals who were inadvertently the victim of asbestos exposure in occupational locations where the manufactured asbestos products, e.g. ceiling tiles, were often found, such as in schools and colleges.
As recently as two years ago, a report stated that despite of asbestos awareness campaigns and legislation, twice as many people still die from occupational injuries as from homicide each year. According to the HSE, the annual number of deaths from asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma or asbestosis has increased from 153 in 1968 to 2056 in 2006.
Yet, whilst high levels of mortality continue to be seen among occupations associated with construction work such as carpenters, joiners, plumbers and electricians, official figures may underestimate the fatal impact of asbestos. The national incidence of asbestos-related deaths is approaching 10,000 a year and, according to asbestosis lawyers, the number of those pursuing asbestos compensation or making a mesothelioma claim is not likely to peak for the foreseeable future.
Indeed, asbestos exposure can be sometimes reported to be found in very different social surroundings. At the beginning of October 2008, amosite ( brown) asbestos panelling was found at the top of five of Selfridge’s Oxford Street windows. Even though immediate action was taken, according to HSE guidelines – windows sealed and the asbestos completely removed – there had been revealed a hidden and deadly hazard risk to all those who might have come into contact with the highly contaminated boards over the years, such as the window dressers and construction workers called to make alterations or repairs,
Asbestos disease shows no respect to wealth or class! Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, elected representatives and members of the House of Lords are also at risk from hazardous occupational exposures. In July 2008, asbestos contamination was discovered at the 170 year old Palace of Westminster. More than 500 miles of water pipes, electricity and telephone cables are scheduled to be replaced for the first time since the Second World War and the potentially serious problem posed by the presence of asbestos, is likely to make it the most extensive refit since the mid-19th century, when the Palace of Westminster was first rebuilt.
The work is unlikely to start before 2012 at it is estimated that the planned work could cost £350 million and necessitate MPs relocating to alternative premises for three years.