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Asbestos Deaths Epidemic Expected from 2015 to 2020

Senior doctors have warned that the number of Mesothelioma cases affecting workers who were exposed to asbestos before the 1980s has yet to reach its peak.

Mesothelioma, a particularly aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, kills more than 2,500 people every year in the UK, with men five times more likely to be diagnosed than women.

The cancer, which is caused by the inadvertent inhalation of asbestos fibres, develops in the tissues covering the lungs or abdomen.

Typically it can take anything between 25 years and as long as 50 years to materialise in the body following exposure to asbestos. As such, it is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage which means most people unfortunately die within three years of being diagnosed.

Doctors writing in the British Medical Journal have previously said that the UK and many other developed countries are on the verge of an asbestos disease epidemic that is likely to start in 2015.

Due to the alarmingly long incubation period, it is widely believed that thousands of workers who were exposed to asbestos before regulations were tightened in the early 1980s, are likely to fall ill in the very near future, creating what many have called a potential ‘time bomb’ in the disease.

Before restrictions on the use of asbestos were introduced in 1983, the material was widely used as an insulator in ships, factories, refineries, and chemical and power plants as well as homes, schools and hospitals in the UK.

As a result, throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, thousands of shipbuilders, boilermakers, builders and plumbers along with teachers, nurses and even the family members of such workers who would clean their contaminated overalls, were regularly exposed to the deadly material.

Shockingly, it is believed that one in every 100 men born in the 1940s will die of Mesothelioma. For men born in the 1940s who were first exposed to asbestos as teenagers whilst working in high risk occupations such as shipbuilding, the risk of developing mesothelioma can be as high as one in five.

Doctors from Guy’s Hospital in London have stated that in the developed world alone, 100,000 people who are alive now will die from Mesothelioma.

“The peak of the epidemic is expected in 2015 to 2020 when the death rate is likely to be 2,000 per year in the UK. Many countries are seeing the rising tide of an epidemic, and all doctors need to know how to recognise and diagnose this disease and what treatments are available."

When I first started practising law, there were around 1,200 deaths from mesothelioma each year in the UK. Sadly that annual figure has now doubled and the figures are still rising.

These deaths are a legacy of more than half a century of workers particularly within the building industry, being exposed to asbestos on a day-to-day basis at work and crucially not being provided with the adequate protection they needed by their employers.  

The number of people being diagnosed with Mesothelioma is still rising. Half of all cases are now aged over 70, with 80% of cases affecting men. As it can take so many years for the disease to manifest itself, one of the biggest challenges facing those bringing compensation claims for asbestos-related cancers is tracing witnesses, former work colleagues and information about past employers and their insurers.

Although employers' liability insurance has been compulsory for many years, the system for tracking it down is complicated. If insurers cannot be found, those who worked diligently all their working lives only to be repaid with such a terrible and incurable disease such as mesothelioma, may not get the compensation they and their families so rightly deserve.

Paul Glanville is a Senior Asbestos Disease Claims Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK deal with all types of Mesothelioma compensation claims on a No Win No Fee basis. This means there is no financial risk to you. For a free consultation with a specialist Mesothelioma Lawyer call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Derby, Merseyside, Cardiff, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Halifax, Newcastle, Wakefield & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire & in Hull, Yorkshire.