It’s no surprise that many asbestosis or mesothelioma claim cases heard today are brought by victims who were exposed to asbestos at their place of work relatively recently.

Despite the ongoing “Asbestos Hidden Killer” campaigns by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and other support groups and charity organisations, such as Mesothelioma UK, the idea seems to persist that the deadly health dangers of asbestos are now no more than a distant memory of Britain’s industrial past.

In reality, white asbestos was only banned from importation into the UK at the end of 1999 and fully prohibited by an EU directive in January 2005. Growing asbestos awareness to the fatal health risks from the 1960s and through the 1970s led to the first ban on the use of the most toxic brown and blue asbestos types in 1985. However, white asbestos fibres continued to be used in building insulation materials for at least another ten years or more.

So once again, it’s no surprise that a recent case of diagnosed mesothelioma concerns a Walsall toolmaker, who was exposed to asbestos while being employed at a Wolverhampton bathroom appliance manufacturer between 1979 and retirement in 1996.

As is so often heard in occupational mesothelioma cases, during the 17 years of employment, no information, warning or protective equipment was ever supplied when the claimant worked with the cutting of asbestos insulation boards. Airborne asbestos fibre dust is easily inhaled and absorbed into the lung linings where long-tem tissue inflammation develops into asbestosis disease or the fatal, incurable mesothelioma cancer cells.

There is an exceptionally long gestation period of up to 50 years before the first mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms, such as breathlessness and coughing, become apparent. In December 2011, fifteen years after retirement, the former toolmaker, then aged 79, was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

According to a British Journal of Cancer report supplement issued in June 2012, asbestos continues to be the cause of the “largest proportion of the overall burden of occupational cancer”. Nearly a half of all occupational cancer deaths and a third of cancer registrations are estimated to be the result of past exposure to asbestos in the workplace.

According to the HSE, there has been nearly a 14 fold increase in the number of mesothelioma deaths over the last 45 years to more than 2,000 in 2005. More than 1.8 million people are still annually exposed to asbestos and despite mesothelioma accounting for less than 1 per cent of all cancers, around 2,400 people continue to be diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK every year.

Far from asbestos risk being consigned to Britain’s notorious working past, the deadly legacy is very much with us today and is predicted to continue to inflict pain, suffering and distress for decades to come.