Mesothelioma victims often point to their complete lack of asbestos awareness to the deadly health risks they were exposed to when working with the material during their working life.

It’s even more shocking to be constantly reminded that so many company employers appeared to not provide their workforce with any information or personal protective equipment (PPE) even when their employees were obviously working in an atmosphere thick with asbestos dust.

A recent case of a former Scunthorpe asbestos worker in his early 80s who recently died from mesothelioma cancer, is a telling example of how UK asbestos industries completely disregarded the growing evidence of the long-term health dangers of exposure and inhalation of the deadly fibre dust.

“Paper mask”

Employed as an asbestos insulation “pipe lagger” in his teenage years, the young apprentice was only ever supplied a “paper mask”, which was clearly inadequate for preventing the breathing in of the tiny asbestos dust particles. From the late 1940s onwards – during the peak period of asbestos use in UK industries – the young man continued to work with asbestos pipe lagging as a maintenance fitter and a plater at one of Britain’s largest steel manufacturers.

The long gestation period of asbestosis disease of up to 50 years or more means that the first asbestosis symptoms were not discovered until long after retirement. Following a visit to the GP with a complaint of persistent shortness of breath the subsequent X-ray showed a shadow on the lung, which was diagnosed as mesothelioma cancer.

Exposure risk levels

Previous research into asbestos-related diseases have found that subject to variations of daily levels of asbestos exposure, more than 90 percent of individuals who were exposed to asbestos for 40 years or more will develop the disease. For those who worked with the toxic mineral for 20-30 years, the rate is about 75 percent. Those who experienced 10-19 years of exposure have an incidence level of about 10 to 15 percent.

In the UK, the first Asbestos Regulations to limit asbestos use were only introduced in 1969 but asbestos use as an insulation material continued right up until the late 1970s and an outright ban in 1985 on the import of the most dangerous forms of brown and blue asbestos. White asbestos was still being extensively used in many construction materials for at least another ten years until it too was finally banned from import in 1999.

100-fold increase

It’s therefore hardly surprising that fatality rates from asbestos exposure are predicted by the Health And Safety Executive (HSE) to rise until at least 2050. HSE have reported that between 1968 and 2008, there was a 100-fold increase in mesothelioma fatality with more than 2,200 cases reported. In 2007, around 2,400 people were diagnosed with mesothelioma and in the following year there were around 2,150 recorded deaths from the malignant cancer. The 2010 Mesothelioma Register records 2,347 deaths.