The recent case of an Ellesmere Port worker who was diagnosed with asbestosis disease after working at a roofing materials factory up until the end of 1980s, once again, highlights the widespread exposure, especially in the building industry to those who daily breathed in the deadly fibres even after use of the mineral began to wind down from the 1970s onwards.
It also points to the need to maintain constant asbestos awareness of the deadly health dangers that are still present in buildings constructed or renovated up to the 1980s at least.
Throughout the 1960s, increasing medical evidence showed the link between inhaled asbestos fibres, which would permanently embed in the lung linings and the development of lung and pleural diseases, such as the incurable fatal cancer, mesothelioma. However, there was little or no information issued to workers who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace nor any protective masks or clothing.
While the most toxic types of brown and blue asbestos were banned in the mid 1980s, white asbestos continued to be used as an insulation material in a variety of building materials, including wallboards, soffits, pipelagging, textured coatings and cement products, such as roof shingle tiles, corrugated roofing sheets, boiler housing, etc
At the time, white asbestos was considered ‘low risk’ due to the potentially less harmful properties of the fibres and was only banned completely from use from 1999. Today, strict asbestos regulations govern the discovery, management and disposal of white asbestos and the Government reaffirmed its status as a Class 1 carcinogen in 2011.
It is known that between 15 to 50 years can elapse before the first asbestosis symptoms may emerge and the Cheshire worker received a confirmed diagnosis twenty years after leaving the roofing factory. A subsequent payment of asbestos compensation also allows for further claims to be made if the condition deteriorates or leads to the development of mesothelioma.
According to The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed every year and it is forecast 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.