Figures released by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) show nearly 100 more people died of mesothelioma in 2010 than in 2008.
In 1968, the total number of mesothelioma deaths was 153.
By 2008, the figure for mesothelioma had increased to 2249, rising to 2321 deaths in 2009 and the latest available figure of 2347 in 2010.
There can be no clearer indication that far from being a disease consigned to the UK’s grim industrial past, the deadly incurable cancer of the lung or stomach linings is very much with us and claiming victims every year in the twenty first century.
Despite the ceaseless work to raise asbestos awareness by HSE and national campaign organisations such as Mesothelioma UK, asbestos-related disease is still on the rise. More than 1.8 million people continue to be annually exposed to asbestos and at least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year.
Asbestosis disease is also on the increase.
From 117 deaths, which registered asbestosis as an underlying cause in 2008, HSE figures show that 410 deaths were registered in 2010 as asbestosis “without mention of mesothelioma.” In 2008 there was a total of 429 deaths where the death certificate referred to the term “asbestosis”, significantly rising to 725 “newly assessed” cases of asbestosis by 2010.
The 2010 figure for diffuse pleural thickening has also risen from around 400 in 2008 to 440 newly assessed cases.
The most toxic types of asbestos were banned from use in the UK in 1985 and while so-called ‘low risk’ white asbestos continued to be used in building materials for at least another ten years, it is commonly assumed that the danger of lethal exposure had past.
However, this assumption is mistaken for two reasons. Firstly, the gestation period from an original exposure to the first appearance of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms is known to be between 15 to 50 years or more. This means that there are many thousands of men and women who were working with or inadvertently exposed to asbestos up to the 1980s at least.
In addition, it is sometime thought that most asbestos containing material (ACMs) must have been removed by now from the majority of buildings around the country and replaced or renovated with modern construction methods. The stark reality could not be any different. Barely a week passes without another report of builders and demolition contractors uncovering substantial quantities of mostly white asbestos in schools, housing estates and commercial premises.
The risk of exposure to asbestos is still a fact in Britain today and mesothelioma disease an horrific reality for many who tragically breathed in the deadly fibres up to sixty years ago.