Mesothelioma deaths reach all-time high

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Mesothelioma deaths reach all-time high

23rd August 2011

The number of deaths from mesothelioma has reached an all-time high according to new BBC research.

The figures compiled by BBC Look East revealed that since the 1980s, the male death rate from the cancer – which is caused by exposure to asbestos - has increased by more than four times in the east of England.

Bridget Collier, head of the Industrial Disease department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the figures were illustrative of the cruel nature of mesothelioma.

“It can take between 15 and 60 years after being exposed to asbestos before any related disease becomes apparent,” said Bridget. “Many people who are diagnosed often came into contact with asbestos several years ago and didn’t even realise. It is only when the symptoms begin to take hold that they recognise the devastating effect working with asbestos has had on them.”

Bridget, who for many years has seen first-hand the impact mesothelioma has on its victims, said asbestos fibres are invisible to the naked eye. “When inhaled, these tiny indestructible fibres lodge inside the body and can remain latent without symptoms for many years before causing a number of cancers, including mesothelioma,” she said.

According to figures from the Health and Safety Executive, the latest increase outstripped those in Scotland and Wales and in all but one of the English regions. “There were more than 100 verdicts of death from industrial diseases in 2010 in Essex alone,” said Bridget, “and in the east of England, the male death rate from mesothelioma increased from 14.8 per million between 1982 and 1984 to 66.4 per million between 2006 and 2008.”

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the East told the BBC: "The figure has continued to increase over recent years, which reflects occupational exposures that occurred many years ago because there is a long time lag between exposure in most cases and the onset of the disease."

The HSE expects deaths from mesothelioma to continue to rise for the next five years.

“There is a common misconception that asbestos is a thing of the past,” added Bridget, “but many people could still be at risk today. Asbestos was used in the building of thousands of homes from the fifties through to the mid-eighties,” she said.

“Boiler and pipe lagging, insulation, floors and boarding – there are many different ways asbestos was used in the construction of houses,” she said. “Astonishingly, asbestos was being used in some cement products up until as recently as 1999, so the number of people potentially exposed is staggering.”

As well as people working in construction and related industries, mesothelioma has claimed the lives of women who inhaled asbestos dust as they washed their husband's work clothes. “Many people who are diagnosed often came into contact with asbestos several years ago and didn’t even realise, so it is vitally important to be vigilant now.”

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of industrial diseases including mesothelioma.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Read more at: BBC News