Mesothelioma and asbestosis disease have been most commonly associated with traditional industrial areas of the UK where key manufacturing, shipbuilding, engineering, building and construction industries, which used asbestos fibres in their products, were based. Centres of working populations most affected in the north of England and the Midlands, include Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.
Consequently, it is not unusual to find one of the northern counties to be in the news as the latest victim of an asbestos-related disease is reported or an ongoing claim for mesothelioma compensation is brought to a hearing. Reports of asbestos cases are not only a vital reminder of the ever-present dangers of asbestos exposure in residential, public and commercial properties, but also of how just recent the peak period of its use was in the UK and the high numbers of victims involved.
A recent case of a former builder employed at Derbyshire County Council from 1975 until 1990, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma aged only 52, is one of 15 other ongoing cases concerning alleged asbestos exposure while working at local authorities, including four who were also employed at Derby council from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s.
It may be too easily forgotten that the widespread use of asbestos to produce insulation, fire retardant and anti corrosion products continued right up until the mid 1980s but imports of white asbestos only ceased in 1999. Despite a growing asbestos awareness of the serious health risk, lack of information and protective equipment meant that thousands of men and women were regularly exposed and breathed in the fibre dust, either at their workplace or through ‘secondary exposure’ at home.
In the present case, the former council builder states that he was exposed to the deadly material when replacing asbestos sheet roofing on retirement homes, which also required to be collected from where they were stored in a depot. Handling asbestos sheets causes dust, and once airborne the fibres are easily inhaled.
Fibres embedded in the lung linings can cause inflammation, tissue thickening and severe breathing restrictions associated with asbestosis disease. However, cell tissue can turn cancerous and form fatal mesothelioma tumours. The unusually long gestation period often means that the first mesothelioma asbestosis symptoms may not appear until 15 to 50 years later.
When a confirmed diagnosis occurs at an advanced stage in the disease, the remaining time may only be 6 months or less but if caught early enough and with modern, combined asbestosis treatments, a survival rate can be improved by up to two years or more. Consequently, a successful mesothelioma claim can provide desperately needed financial support to the victim and their family at a crucial time.
At least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma are still being diagnosed every year in the UK and further 45,000 mesothelioma deaths are forecast by 2050.