How is it possible that mesothelioma was the cause of death of someone who never had any known contact with asbestos during their lifetime? Post-mortems confirming the presence of the fatal, incurable cancer continue to be regularly reported. Once again, a grim reminder for raising public asbestos awareness of the material’s presence as a result of Britain’s widespread use during much of the twentieth century.
If the deceased had a work history of being employed in non-occupational ‘white collar’ industries, confused and shocked spouses and their families are simply unable to fathom exactly how and where a loved one was exposed to the deadly fibre insulation.
In the latest tragic example, a grieving widow is left seeking answers following a post mortem confirming that her late husband had lost his life to the fatal asbestos-related diseases at the age of 79.
Family suspected another type of serious illness was the cause
Exposure to asbestos in the workplace continues to account for around 2,500 deaths every year from mesothelioma cancer, according to latest available 2014 Health and Safety Executive figures. More than half of the estimated 8,000 work-related cancer deaths reported each year are caused by past exposures to asbestos. However, a post mortem can sometimes record the cause of death as an “industrial disease”, even if the coroner concludes that mesothelioma was probably a “key factor”. The verdict may also be given when the unfortunate victim was known to be suffering with other known diseases.
There can still be misunderstanding and confusion as to the actual cause of death if the patient had suffered from more than one condition or complication. In the present case, the victim made a positive recovery from prostate cancer six years earlier. However, when asbestosis symptoms began to appear, the family at first worried that the prostate cancer had returned but saw that the symptoms were different and suspected another type of serious illness was the cause.
Senior executive position within a major company
The victim’s wife recalls that the doctors kept asking if her late husband had ever come into contact with asbestos and suggesting that the condition could be mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos seemed an impossibility as the husband’s work was very removed from the traditional occupations where the risk of asbestos exposure was a regular occurrence. Up until recently, 85 per cent of all mesothelioma deaths were amongst generations of men who, between the 1950s and the late 1970s, worked with asbestos in traditional heavy industries, such as shipbuilding, manufacturing, building construction, railway and vehicle assembly.
The deceased had been employed at a senior executive position within a major company responsible for hundreds of bingo halls around the UK during the 1970s and 80s. It is now believed that it was his involvement with overseeing the conversions of old cinemas into bingo halls that may have brought him into contact with asbestos insulation during the renovations.
Any property built up to 2000 could still contain white asbestos
By the mid 1970s, at the height of Britain’s asbestos use as low-cost insulation and fireproofing, around 150,000 tons was being imported every year Even after the first asbestos ban on the most toxic blue and brown fibre asbestos types in the mid 1980s, around 30,000 tons of white asbestos was still coming in to the country to be used in the construction industry before white asbestos was banned at the end of 1999. Even today, the professional building trade warn that any property built up to 2000 could still contain white asbestos as a result of builders stockpiling white asbestos insulation boards and other asbestos-related materials.
The widow of the deceased asbestos victim is calling upon any of her late husband’s colleagues who may have worked alongside him at the time of the bingo hall conversions to come forward with any information they can provide to help find answers.
If a mesothelioma claim is to be pursued, an asbestosis lawyer will carry out a detailed analysis into a claimant’s employment history. Pinpointing how the exposures occurred must be shown, and the employer’s failure in their duty of care to protect employees from the future harm caused.