The case of a 66 year old plasterer who was said to have probably died from an asbestosis-related condition in 2011 featured on the BBC 1 documentary “Death Unexplained”, which aired on Tuesday 21st February.
Despite laboratory analysis of five pieces of removed cell tissue, “insufficient evidence” was found to confirm the presence of asbestos, which is required in the ratio of 2 fibres per cm2 of tissue.
As a result, the coroner’s office would have to declare the cause of death by the general category of “chronic respiratory / lung disease” rather than as a consequence of exposure to asbestos.
There is an unusually long gestation period of up to 50 years from the initial period of exposure when the fibres are inhaled to the first appearance of asbestosis symptoms . At this late stage in the spread of the disease, the patient may only have less than 4 months left to live from a confirmed diagnosis.
The programme referred to the increase in the number of asbestos related deaths, yet the true figures may be even much higher as indicated by the case of the unfortunate plasterer. It was hoped that the true cause of death by asbestos exposure may be “retrieved” from future coroner reports.
Well known asbestos blackspots are traditionally found in the North of England and the Midlands where the key industrial regions were situated and where asbestos was used in the production of insulating / friction materials throughout most of the twentieth century.
Recently, the Office of National Statistics stated the area with the highest mesothelioma death rate between 2006 and 2010 to be Barrow-in-Furness.
Latest figures released by The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) show that asbestos-related cancer in North Tyneside is “twice as high as the national average … and with the fifth highest death rate for mesothelioma in England and Wales”.
According to the APIL, mesothelioma was the cause of 98 deaths in North Tyneside between 2006 and 2010, nearly twice the average for England and Wales of 2.5 per 100,000 people.
There were 23 deaths from asbestos related cancer in South Derbyshire, which was 50 per cent higher than the national average in the same period, and 12 people died from mesothelioma in East Staffordshire, 9 in North West Leicestershire.
Current predictions for rising asbestos disease estimate that 5,000 people will die from asbestos exposure each year by 2015 and a further 45,000 mesothelioma deaths can be expected by 2050.