Following the disappointing news earlier this year over the Labour Government’s ruling that individuals diagnosed with pleural plaques are not entitled to asbestos compensation, despite initial asbestos exposure, the new ConDem coalition government have just confirmed there is to be no guaranteed funding for research into asbestos-related disease.
Conservative Health Minister, Simon Burns, appears to be avoiding a pledge made by the last government to fund a £10million research centre, by refusing to make mention of the original vital commitment when replying to a specific Commons question.
In an obvious strategy rethink, Simon Burns wrote, “Future expenditure on research in asbestos-related diseases will be determined by the success of bids for funding.” This would be in “open competition” with other bids on “any aspect of human health”. According to the Labour MP Stephen Hepburn, who put the question to the Minister: “It’s another kick in the teeth for workers exposed to asbestos.” adding “The fact sufferers are mostly working class means they are not considered a priority.”
Research into asbestos-related diseases are underfunded compared to other diseases, even though 2,000 people a year are estimated to die from asbestosis, and mesothelioma is the 12th most common cause of male deaths.
Every year, more than 3,000 asbestos disease sufferers are unable to make an asbestosis claim because their employer’s insurers cannot be traced after many decades since first being exposed to asbestos. It is estimated that 100,000 workers have already died from contracting fatal asbestos-related diseases.
Experts predict that the appearance of asbestosis symptoms – often taking as long as 40 years or more to emerge – are yet to peak and the number of victims diagnosed with terminal asbestos related cancers could double in the next 10 – 20 years.