Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the United Kingdom. Current statistics show that more than 4,500 people die from asbestos-related diseases each year, and unfortunately this figure is expected to continue at its current rate until reaching a peak in 2030 when numbers will have declined.
Asbestos in its various forms is a known carcinogen and there are four main diseases caused by its exposure. Those are mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that principally affects the external lining of the lungs and stomach. The condition has a long latency period from first exposure to the development and diagnosis of mesothelioma. This period of time is not usually less than 15 years, but can be as long as 60 years.
It is because of the long latency period, that attempts have been made to predict the future pattern of mesothelioma rates in both men and women. Traditionally, asbestos related diseases have been associated with men because the diseases were a legacy of past heavy industrial asbestos use, generally in workplaces dominated by men.
Interestingly, studies show that there was a sharp increase in asbestos exposure amongst women from around 1948, followed by a rapid decline and subsequent peak in 1965. This pattern reflects the increased number of women in manual work during and immediately after the Second World War and then again during the 1960s. The effect of this historical work pattern is that peak asbestos related mortality in women is predicted to occur over a decade later than in men, but with a substantially lower annual number of deaths. In the 2014 figures, we see there were 2,101 male deaths and 414 female deaths.
The latest information for the United Kingdom shows that there were 2,515 mesothelioma deaths in 2014, a similar number to the 2,556 deaths in 2013, and 2,549 deaths in 2012. The latest projections suggest that there will continue to be around 2,500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before annual numbers begin to decline in line with the mortality of the generation of workers from the 1950s & 1960s.
Mesothelioma in Great Britain: annual deaths, IIDB cases and projected future deaths to 2030
Ipswich has been identified as a hotspot for mesothelioma cancers. The latest available figures reveal that 23 people died in Ipswich from mesothelioma between 2006 and 2010. This death rate is above average for industrial disease and pushes Suffolk into the top ten counties in England for deaths relating to asbestos exposure.
The reason for the concentration of asbestos related deaths is because of the heavy industry that once dominated and provided employment for many families in the town. Mesothelioma deaths occurring now reflect the industrial conditions of the past when people worked in conditions where they were exposed to asbestos fibres without appropriate personal protective equipment. The employers of the day knew, or importantly in respect of the success of a claim for compensation today, are deemed to have known about the danger to health of working, or handling asbestos without suitable protection being provided to the worker by his employer.
As a firm, we see many asbestos victims who once worked at Cliff Quay Power Station, Cranes Foundry, Ipswich Sugar Beet Factory and other factories in the area. The periods of employment are generally from the early 1950s to the late 1960s, and each victim has a familiar and consistent story of ignorance of the dangers that they were exposed to by their employer in the work place and the lack of any protection or warning of the dangers.
We are also seeing more people who are victims of environmental exposure to asbestos, for example wives of workers who contracted the disease from washing the work clothes of their husbands, and people who have worked in schools where asbestos was, and is still present.
How can our Personal Injury lawyers help?
When we are instructed to help clients in what really are the worst of circumstances, we know that it will be a very difficult time for them and their families. We are committed to supporting our clients and ensuring that making a claim for compensation is as easy as possible for them.