Asbestos related diseases are caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres that were used in the main as a heat and fire resistant material from the 1930’s until the 1980’s. It takes many years or even decades for victims to notice the symptoms of asbestos related disease. It is essential for you to take advice.


Friday, 15 January 2010

Epidemic! Asbestos threat 'underestimated', say scientists

The lethal threat from asbestos fibres may have been seriously underestimated, medical researchers are warning, as thousands of people with asbestos-related illnesses wait to hear whether they can sue for compensation.

The Ministry of Justice is expected to reveal this week whether it will reverse a landmark judgment that prevents those diagnosed with pleural plaques – an early indicator of contamination – from taking legal action.

Although as many as 90,000 people a year may be developing the condition, the government's Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) has recommended against adding it to the approved list of "compensatable disablement" schemes.

People exposed to asbestos may go on to develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers. Once considered diseases associated with heavy industry that targeted men in asbestos-processing factories and shipyards, patterns of premature fatalities have started to emerge in other professions, including electricians, plumbers, garage mechanics, teachers and even hairdressers.

Estimates by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggest the UK epidemic will peak in the middle of the next decade with about 5,000 deaths a year. The period between diagnosis of mesothelioma and death is usually brief.

The sale of asbestos was banned in the UK 10 years ago. In some buildings it has been removed. Elsewhere it remains, often insulating pipes in ducts where electricians work. Some hair salon blowdryers were at one stage insulated with asbestos. The new evidence has emerged from studies commissioned to assess the impact of long-term exposure.

A report by scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) this summer reclassified certain cancers and concluded that more than previously thought are related to asbestos fibres. "Sufficient evidence is now available to show that asbestos also causes cancer of the larynx (throat) and of the ovary," the group reported in the Lancet Oncology journal.

Estimating that as many as 125 million people worldwide still work in asbestos-contaminated offices and factories, the scientists noted: "Although asbestos has been banned or restricted in most of the industrialised world, its use is increasing in parts of Asia, South America and the former Soviet Union."

More than half of work-related deaths from six major cancers in the UK are due to asbestos, according to a team of London-based public health researchers. "Estimates for all six cancers [in terms of the number of occupation-related deaths] but leukaemia, are greater than those currently used in UK health and safety strategy planning," the paper in Occupational Environmental magazine concludes. Written by, among others, Dr Lesley Rushton at Imperial College, London, the report warns that its figures are "likely to be a conservative estimate of true risk". She told the Guardian: "You spend a third of your life at work. You need to take the risks very seriously. One of the problems is that many people don't realise when they are exposed to asbestos.

"We haven't reduced exposure to asbestos as much as we should have. If you look at the compensation statistics, then you can see that women diagnosed with mesothelioma rarely receive payments. They can't prove it was occupationally related." Rushton is now working on new estimates for asbestos-related death rates.

The true level of asbestos-related deaths is partially disguised by the fact that those who contract lung cancer tend to blame themselves for smoking at some stage in their life rather than making a connection to asbestos. The HSE in its occupational disease models, however, works on the basis that for every death from mesothelioma there has been another asbestos-related lung cancer fatality.

This week, the Ministry of Justice is expected to announce whether it will overturn a landmark House of Lords judgment made in 2007 that barred claimants from suing for compensation if they have been diagnosed as suffering from pleural plaques. The Scottish parliament has already passed legislation to overturn the law lords' decision.

In its comments on the condition, the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council declared: "The condition is likely to be common, with one expert suggesting that as many as 36,000 to 90,000 people a year may be developing plaques."

In explaining why pleural plaques should not automatically trigger statutory payouts, the IIAC said: "They do not alter the structure of the lungs or restrict their expansion. Therefore, they would not be expected to cause an important degree of impaired lung function or disability.

• This article was amended on 20 July 2009. The original referred to the Lancet Oncology publication as a magazine. This has been corrected.

Owen Bowcott, Sunday 19 July 2009

Monday, 4 January 2010

Asbestos in the Houses of Parliament

Visitors to the Houses of Parliament, MPs, peers and officials working in the 170-year-old building are at risk of exposure to a dangerous form of asbestos fibres, according to a safety report seen by the Guardian.

A detailed investigation of the service shafts and piping ducts hidden behind the neo-Gothic committee rooms and chambers warns of "significant dangers" to "all persons" in the Palace of Westminster.

The study - produced by Goddard Consulting, London-based health and safety experts, for the Parliamentary Works Service Directorate - was delivered earlier this year. It documents fears that risks are not being adequately addressed.

Owen Bowcott talks through the asbestos warning report Link to this audio

One problem identified was an access door to an asbestos-contaminated shaft beside the Commons kitchen that was wedged shut with a spoon and was often opened when the room became too hot.

"On opening this door cold air rushed in and it was like standing in a wind tunnel," the report, obtained by the medical technology magazine Clinica, states. "Asbestos fibres would be readily dispersed in the kitchen areas if the dust and debris was disturbed in the riser in any way."

The survey team only entered the shaft wearing protective clothing and breathing masks.

Unsecured access doors were regularly discovered. An email, dated last October and reproduced in the study, suggests rising levels of frustration among the consultants.

One said: "In view of the fact that in December 2006 I issued a report on the risers [service shafts] warning of the consequences of riser access doors being unlocked and unsealed, the Palace of Westminster authorities may wish to consider whether or not they have taken adequate steps to protect employees and visitors from exposure to asbestos fibres in accordance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006."

Of 20 samples taken last August from four service shafts, 11 showed the presence of "amosite" in debris on the floor or walls. Amosite, or brown asbestos, is one of the more dangerous forms of the potentially carcinogenic mineral.

As a result of the inspections, the report, says: "We became aware of significant dangers and risks to the health and safety of persons not only gaining access and working in the risers and ducts but generally to all persons within the Palace of Westminister."

An earlier draft of the report, dated December 2006, said many of the risers had "airborne asbestos fibres present" and - because inadequately secured - "there is a serious risk of asbestos contamination of many areas and offices".

Among its recommendations is that access doors to shafts should be locked and the keys held centrally.

The use of asbestos as an insulating material in the sprawling recesses of the building has been previously acknowledged. An internal survey was carried out in 2005 and MPs were reassured that asbestos had been safely contained.

During a debate in the Lords on March 8 2007, peers were informed that 200 asbestos sites had been identified. A thousand air tests were carried out at more than 40 of those sites, all returning "below the detectable fibre count limit of 0.01 fibres per millilitre".

In response to questions from the Guardian, a spokeswoman for the Palace of Westminster confirmed that a survey of risers was carried out in 2007.

"The most significant risks identified were dealt with as a matter of urgency," she said. "The kitchen cupboard was identified on October 26 2007 and the door was relocked within 24 hours. The lock was later replaced ... The associated level of risk to kitchen staff when the riser cupboard was open is considered to be minimal ... All but one of the riser cupboards used by the cleaning staff are free of asbestos and are compartmentalised, inhibiting any airflow from other sections of that riser."

A House of Commons spokesman said last night: "The letter from Goddard Consulting quite understandably drew our attention to the fact that we had not implemented all the recommendations within their 2005 report. That is correct. However, this is a complex area where professional opinions may differ. There are a number of recommendations where we felt that alternative ways of managing the hazard would be equally effective and the problems were addressed accordingly."

Asbestos is widespread in older buildings. According to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, it may be left in place safely as long as its condition is monitored and it is not disturbed. The Health and Safety Executive describes asbestos as the greatest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. The number of deaths from asbestos-related cancers is expected to peak at around 2,450 a year by 2015.

No Asbestos Bill before General Election

Despite the first reading of the Damages (Asbestos- Related Conditions) Bill taking place in the House of Lords on 19 October 2009, the government failed to include it in the Queen’s Speech after it ran out of Parliamentary time. A Private Members’ Bill was set to bring back payments for victims of pleural plaques but it failed to make it through the Lords before the end of the last Parliamentary session.

The failure to mention the Bill in the government’s proposed legislative programme further delays the battle for sufferers of the disease to receive mandatory compensation. Victims have been seeking a return to compensation payments since Law Lords ended the right to payouts from insurers following a ruling in 2007.

Labour MP for Blaydon, Dave Anderson, said that because the coming Parliamentary session is likely to be short in advance of a General Election, it was always unlikely that the Bill would be included in the Queen’s Speech and that he was “working to find a mechanism to get (the Bill) through”.

Mr Anderson has launched a Parliamentary petition to seeking to overturn the 2007 ruling.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also launched a campaign aimed at tradesmen warning of the dangers of asbestos. The HSE said that around 20 tradesmen die each week in the UK from asbestos-related diseases. The campaign aims to highlight the danger of working with the substance and has labelled it as “the hidden killer”.

Wirral painter died from industrial disease after being exposed to asbestos at Cammell Laird shipyard

A PAINTER and decorator died after being exposed to asbestos while working at a Mersey shipyard.

A Wallasey inquest heard William Mottram, 78, was previously employed both at Cammell Laird, in Birkenhead, and on various British Rail sites.

Wirral coroner Chris- topher Johnson yesterday said the nature of his work contributed to his death last year. He returned a verdict of industrial disease, specifying asbestosis as one of the causes.

The inquest heard Mr Mottram, who died on October 30 last year, lived in Prenton Dell Road, Prenton, with his son Alan.

Coroner’s officer Ronald Hankin said he was found collapsed on the floor and an ambulance was called, but Mr Mottram was pronounced dead at 4.30pm.

Mr Hankin said Mr Mottram had chronic heart disease, high blood pressure and pneumonia.

The inquest heard tests carried out on Mr Mottram were “in keeping with normal levels of someone exposed to asbestos.”

Jul 31 2009 by Philip Kirkbride, Liverpool Echo

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Areas with High Incidence

The Health and Safety Executive also lists the areas of the United Kingdom that are most affected by mesothelioma. The majority of sites high on the list are towns where the residents were heavily involved in shipbuilding. The 20 most-affected sites in the UK are:

  • Glasgow City
  • Plymouth
  • North Tyneside
  • Sunderland
  • Portsmouth
  • Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
  • Medway
  • Southampton
  • South Tyneside
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • Barking and Degenham
  • Barrow-In-Furness
  • Newham
  • Renfrewshire
  • Havant
  • Eastleigh
  • Crewe and Nantwich
  • Inverclyde
  • Hartlepool
  • Gosport
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Monday, 21 December 2009

Asbestos campaigners cycle from Clydebank to London

Paul Glanville, Katrina London and Jason Addy arrive in London after cycling the length of Britain to raise awareness of the devastating impact asbestos related diseases have on victims and their families. They are met by John McFall MP, who waved them off at the start of their journey in Clydebank.

Asbestos: A shameful legacy

The authorities knew it was deadly more than 100 years ago, but it was only banned entirely in 1999. The annual death rate will peak at more than 5,000 in 2016 – now MPs have a chance to do the decent thing.

By Emily Dugan - Independent Newspaper

They called it "the Barking cough". First it began like any other: a tickle in the chest and slight pain on breathing. Then, within a matter of months, the sufferer was in agony, gasping for air and eventually suffocating to death as a vicious cancer attacked their lungs waiting for the final lingering, inevitable end which might not come for decades.

The legacy of the Cape Asbestos factory in Barking, east London, where asbestos-related cancers continue to kill scores of residents, is a deadly one. Hundreds of people have died since the factory closed in 1968.

The story of Barking's "industrial killing machine" is a story repeated up and down the country where thousands of Britons continue to be blighted by their industrial past. Exposure to asbestos is now the biggest killer in the British workforce, killing about 4,000 people every year – more than who die in traffic accidents. The shocking figures are the grim legacy of the millions of tons of the dust shipped to Britain to make homes, schools, factories and offices fire resistant. It was used in products from household fabrics to hairdryers.

Those most at risk are ordinary workers and their families. Whether it was dockyard workers who unloaded the lethal cargoes, or those in the factories exposed to the fibres, or the carpenters, laggers, plumbers, electricians and shipyard workers who routinely used asbestos for insulation – all suffered. So did the wives who washed the work overalls and the children who hugged their parents or played in the dust-coated streets.

The exposure to asbestos in Britain is largely historical but the death toll is alarmingly etched on our future. Asbestos fibres can lie dormant on victims' lungs for up to half a century; deaths from asbestos in Britain will continue to rise until 2016.

Nor is it confined to Britain. The World Health Organisation says asbestos currently kills at least 90,000 workers every year. One report estimated the asbestos cancer epidemic could claim anywhere between five and 10 million lives before it is banned worldwide and exposure ceases.

Asbestos was hailed as the "magic mineral" when its tough, flexible but fire-resistant qualities were realised, but for more than a century doctors and others have been warning of its dangers. Asbestos dust was being inhaled into the lungs where it could lie unnoticed before causing crippling illnesses such lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma which one medical professor has described as "perhaps the most terrible cancer known, in which the decline is the most cruel".

For people such as those in Barking who have seen their neighbours, relatives and friends suffer this excruciatingly painful and distressing death, there can be little consolation when they discover the first signs of asbestos exposure on their own lungs. These scars, known as pleural plaques, can be a warning that they too may develop one of the fatal cancers that inhaling the lethal fibres can result in.

On Wednesday, a meeting between MPs and government lawyers will determine if people suffering from pleural plaques can be paid the compensation that many believe they deserve. For 21 years, sufferers of pleural plaques were compensated by their employers for the scars caused by exposure to the deadly fibres, but in 2007 this was overturned by a Law Lords ruling. Politicians and medical experts accuse the Government of pandering to the insurance lobby and claim they are now ignoring crucial new medical evidence which reveals the physical and mental toll of pleural plaques.

In Dagenham Working Men's club, up the road from the site of the Cape asbestos factory, members of the local GMB laggers' branch gather for a beer to discuss the one deadly issue that continues to plague their members: asbestos. Jimmy Parrish, branch chairman, has a list of 67 of their 300 or so members affected by asbestos-related disease since 1998. Many of them were diagnosed with pleural plaques and 30 are now dead. "Hitler killed only one of my uncles," said Parrish. "Cape killed the rest."

Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham, said the lack of compensation for pleural plaques sufferers was scandalous. "If that amount of death occurred in any other profession it would be a national scandal," he said. "It's a working-class disease and it doesn't get the attention it should do: it's a life sentence. You've got to think about the corporate interests of insurance companies and compare that with a lagger. There's no equivalent in the power game here. The insurance industry says there's no link between pleural plaques and fatal forms of asbestos disease, but figures from the GMB suggest otherwise.

"It's extraordinary what's going on in our area. It's an epidemic. There's barely a family that doesn't have some experience of asbestos-related disease and it's going to get worse; it's not even at its peak yet."

The Barking and Dagenham Asbestos Support Group describes the Cape factory at Barking as an "industrial killing machine". Between 1981 and 2005, the number of men dying from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in Barking reached 187, making it the worst area of London for asbestos-related disease and in the top 10 for the UK. It was not just workmen who suffered. Barking has the highest rate of mesothelioma for women in the country, with 60 women dying from the disease between 1981 and 2005. But these official figures are just the start. Since asbestos can lie dormant for up to 50 years, many people have long since left the area. Geoffrey Tweedale, an asbestos industry expert, said: "No one knows the death toll, but it's possibly in the thousands. Cape never had to release their records."

Although there were other sources of exposure in the area, Cape's processing of the fibres was on a different scale. The factory employed more than 10,000 people from the time it opened in 1913 to its closure in 1968.

Cape insisted asbestos was harmless even after the factory in Barking closed. Richard Gaze, former chief scientist for Cape Asbestos, defended its record throughout the 1970s until he died of mesothelioma himself, aged 65, in 1982.

Workers were told that drinking half a pint of milk would prevent illness and were left to toil in the thick dust with no masks. Dust from the building spewed on to the streets from giant fans, leaving cotton wool-like wisps to settle on the streets. The streets "looked like Christmas", residents recall. Children in Northbury School, which was adjacent to the factory, used to gather up this "snow" and throw it at each other.

Peter Williams of Field Fisher Waterhouse, solicitors specialising in asbestos disease, said, "I think Cape would have known that asbestos was highly dangerous. From the people we've spoken to that worked in the factory and lived in the surrounding area, no precautions were taken and no one from Cape ever mentioned it was dangerous."

Today, the Hart's Lane estate lies where the factory used to be. The only visible sign of its industrial past is a road name – Cape Close – but the legacy has lasted far longer than anyone might have guessed. Successive tests between 1997 and 2003 found asbestos dangerously near the surface in the soil of the estate.

Rita Ashdown, who died from mesothelioma in 2002, was among the first to perish. She insisted her exposure was from the 13 years she lived on the estate. The council's insurers paid her £40,000 compensation but denied responsibility. Now Dennis Gaffney is dying from the same disease and believes he too was exposed after spending time on the estate in the 1970s.

A spokesman for Barking and Dagenham council said it had commissioned "extensive independent experts' studies" of the Hart's Lane estate, most recently in 2006. "The studies concluded that any risk to the health of the estate's residents or visitors from asbestos is insignificant," he said.

On Wednesday MPs and others will meet government lawyers to press for the controversial 2007 Lords decision on plaques to be challenged. Andrew Dismore MP, who is attempting for a second time to get a bill through the House of Lords which would challenge the decision, said: "It's a manifest injustice. The law treats psychological injury differently from physical injury. The insurers are obviously trying to minimise their loss and the Government also has a potential liability for some of these cases. Come what may this issue has to be resolved."

Those with pleural plaques are 1,000 times more likely to suffer from an asbestos-related cancer than the rest of the population, but a government-commissioned report which has been used to justify the continued lack of compensation for sufferers said that the risk of pleural plaques sufferers contracting lung cancer was "very small". Dr Robin Rudd, the country's leading expert on asbestos-related disease, said the report had disregarded the latest evidence. "It's not a medical question," said Dr Rudd. "Jack Straw is just using medical evidence as a smoke screen. The report missed the last 10 years of medical evidence."

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the House of Lords decision had raised "extremely complex and difficult issues which have required very careful consideration within Government". She added that the issues were still being actively considered "in order to be in a position to publish a final response as soon as possible".

Cape claimed it was unaware of the dangers, but as early as 1898, the chief inspector of factories in the UK reported that asbestos had "easily demonstrated" health risks. In Barking itself, alarm bells sounded in 1929 when the medical officer of health wrote in his annual report: "Many people in Barking are suffering from diseases of the lungs due to the inhalation of asbestos dust." By 1945, the medical officer wrote that asbestos was a "deadly and dangerous commodity" that should probably be banned.

A company spokesman said, "Cape has taken a very responsible approach to dealing with this issue, establishing an independent fund over two and a half years ago for the benefit of all claimants. The scheme covers all types of disease, paying compensation to claimants where due."

It was the ill-health of those living near the Barking factory that precipitated a nationwide shift in attitudes to using asbestos. A 1965 report showed that there had been a spate of mesothelioma cases among residents living near the Cape factory. The factory closed three years later, but its legacy will continue to be marked by graves.

Asbestos: Case studies...

The man exposed from visits to the estate (after the factory was gone)

Dennis Gaffney, 84, is dying from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos on the Hart's Lane estate which was built on the site of the old Cape factory. In the early 1970s, Dennis used to drive his wife Lily to see her mother, Lizzie Potter, four times a week after work. Mrs Potter had just moved into a brand new house built on the estate where the factory had been. Building work was still going on at the time and Dennis used to wait outside in his car with the windows down while his wife chatted to her mother. "I had a new car and I didn't want to get involved in women's talk, so I thought I'd leave them to it," explains Mr Gaffney. Sometimes when he got bored he would walk around and watch what was going on with the builders. It is now known that asbestos was not properly removed from the ground after the factory was shut down, but as Mr Gaffney wandered around the building site he had no idea of this. "There must have been dust in the air because there was no other time I could have been exposed to asbestos," said Mr Gaffney, who used to work in marketing. "I've had a biopsy and I'm still uncomfortable on my chest, but they just tell me to keep taking paracetamol."

The school boy whose 'snowball' fights in the yard killed him

George Dickerson used to have "snowball" fights with the thick white dust that gathered in the sports fields of Northbury Infant School he had no idea that his game would prove deadly. George, who spent his working life helping adults with learning difficulties, died from mesothelioma in 2006 aged 76 because his schoolyard was always showered in asbestos dust from the adjacent factory. His daughter Jane said: "He used to tell us about huge extractor fans that churned chunks of asbestos dust on to the lane that led to the school sports field. They used to collect it and bash it all together for snowball fights. As soon as he was diagnosed he knew it was from playing in it as a child. He was angry that nothing was done to protect local residents."

The wife killed by her husband's overalls (and the family destroyed by dust)

Jacqueline Merritt spent years washing her husband Don's overalls and shaking the dust off them. Don had worked for Cape and his clothes were covered in asbestos. In 2004, she died from mesothelioma, aged 60, and now her husband Don has pleural plaques on his lungs and worries he'll go the same way. Not only did he lose his wife to the deadly fibres, but his brother Fred and his brother-in-law Len Sturrock also died from asbestosis. "Me and Jacky had three boys together and they all missed their mum when she died and still do. My brother Fred worked with it for just eight weeks and he died 15 years ago. Asbestos has had a massive effect on our family."

The child killed by the hug he gave a family friend

Gordon Sanders, when he was still a schoolboy, used to get visits most days from his parents' best friend, Jimmy Dows, on his way home from work at the Cape factory. He loved kids, and when he came round, still in his dusty overalls, Gordon and his younger brother Philip would hug him and jump all over him. After Jimmy left, Gordon's mother would shake out the mat and leave newspaper to collect the dust. In 2005, Gordon, who was by then a primary school headteacher, died from mesothelioma, aged 57. Philip also died from lung cancer in 1988, when he was 35. At Gordon's inquest, the Coroner said that Philip's death was most likely also related to exposure to the fibres. Gordon's wife Ethel said: "The kids would crawl all over Jimmy because he was such a nice bloke. Nobody had any idea how bad the dust was. It's such a nasty disease. It's a feeling of gradually being suffocated. Gordon felt robbed of his future life with us. It seems so unjust that there was such a lack of regard for the health of people living in the area."

The mother killed by a deadly housing estate

Rita Ashdown had no idea when she moved into her new home in 1972 that it would kill her. The flat was on the Hart's Lane estate, built on the site of the old Cape factory. In 2002 she died from mesothelioma, aged 62. Her son, Eddie, said: "In 2001, tests showed that there was asbestos just a foot under ground. It wasn't until she was diagnosed that we started to think how she could have got it. We lived there for 13 years."

The lagger who mixed Cape's asbestos with his bare hands

Graham Taylor is living on borrowed time. When the 61-year-old was 15, he worked for Cape for a year, mixing drums of asbestos with his bare hands and without a mask. Four years ago he was frighteningly short of breath and saw a doctor. He was quickly diagnosed with asbestosis, and told he had between two and five years left. "When we'd finish work we'd look like we had jumped in bags of flour. My lungs are turning to concrete. I've been handed a death sentence and Cape wanted to quibble about money."

The family wiped out by asbestos

June Gibson's mother, Amy West, and her aunt, Maud Raisbeck, died of asbestosis aged 43 and 28 in the 1920s and 30s after working in the Cape factory. "The only compensation my mum got from Cape was an Italian marble gravestone," June, 79, said. "She weighed four stone before she died." Now June, who never worked there herself, has shadows on her lung too.

The former pro-footballer who can hardly walk

Peter Bragger, 60, was a semi-professional footballer and former captain of the England under-18 team. Now walking to the phone leaves him struggling for air. He worked for Cape from 1964 as a lagger. "I was first diagnosed with pleural plaques, but now I've got asbestosis. I've had a lower lobectomy which removed part of my lung. My life has been cut short."

The asbestos researcher

Marjorie Wells's job during the Second World War was to work in the lab at the Barking factory checking which lengths of asbestos fibres gave the best finish. Now 85, she is dying of mesothelioma. "There was dust everywhere, but it didn't worry me at all. We just carried on with our normal lives afterwards," said Marjorie. "It was a shock when I found out that's what was making me ill. Now I've got no energy at all."

The female factory worker

Marian Lethbridge had trained as a children's nurse, initially making only 15 shillings (75p) a week. When she saw an advert for women to work in the Cape factory for £4, she couldn't get there quickly enough. She worked there for only nine months, when she was 16, but that was enough: she was spinning the asbestos fibres, and they gave her no protection. Her husband, Ted Lethbridge, said: "At the end of the day they would get her to clean all the dust and she can remember it being so thick it hung off the light fittings. You've got to wonder why they were offering so much more money. She died of mesothelioma in 1997, when she was 69, and she was in so much pain. She said to me, 'Just let me die; I don't want any more.'"

Deadly history: The 'magic mineral' turns devasting killer

* Asbestos is dubbed the "magic mineral" after it is discovered that the rock minerals' fibrous qualities provide heat-resistant material. It is used in factories and homes. The same qualities made it deadly to workers exposed to the fibres.

* In 1898, UK factory inspectors first identified the "evil effects" of asbestos and its danger to workers' health. By 1955 a study reveals the clear lung-cancer risk. It was not totally banned in the UK until 1999, 101 years after the alarm was first raised.

* This week MPs will meet government lawyers about compensation for victims of the asbestos-related lung scarring, pleural plaques, which has not been available since the Law Lords controversially ruled against it in 2007.

* As well as pleural plaques, exposure to asbestos fibre can result in three potentially fatal diseases: asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma (a deadly cancer that strangles the lungs and other internal organs) and asbestosis (a disease that attacks the lung tissues).

* The World Health Organisation estimates asbestos is currently killing 90,000 people a year worldwide. One authoritative study predicts up to 10 million people will die because of it. We won't know the true extent in the UK until 2016 when the death toll is expected to peak.

Petition for asbestos research centre goes to Downing Street

CAMPAIGNERS presented a 22,000-signature petition to the Government on Wednesday demanding more funding for research into asbestos-related diseases.

For every £100 spent on cancer research just a few pence goes to mesothelioma - a fatal lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Now doctors, charities, unions and MPs, backed by the Mirror's Asbestos Timebomb Campaign, want a £10million national research centre to find better treatments.

See the video here:


Raising Awareness Of Mesothelioma

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The health risks of asbestos

If undamaged, asbestos does not present a health risk. However, if it becomes chipped, or broken, asbestos can release a fine dust made up of tiny asbestos fibres. If someone breathes in the dust, the fibres can damage the lungs and trigger asbestosis.

The symptoms of asbestosis usually begin many years after the initial exposure. Most cases of asbestosis begin 15-20 years after exposure, although it can take as many as 40 years for symptoms to become apparent.

Health concerns regarding asbestos were raised as far back as 1898, but it was not until the 1970s that strict regulations were introduced to regulate the use of asbestos and limit an employee’s exposure to it.

The use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999 and it is now also banned in all EU countries. However, asbestos is still widely used in the developing world.

Asbestos Cancer Support Group

Who is at risk?

Most manual workers were exposed to asbestos, without any protection or prior knowledge of the dangers.

  • Plumbers
  • Builders
  • Shipyard workers
  • Roofers
  • Dockers
  • Flooring contractors
  • Factory workers
  • Construction workers
  • Bricklayers
  • Power Station workers

If you are not sure, we can still advise you. We are here to help and we offer a no-win, no-fee service.

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Description of asbestos related diseases

Asbestos related diseases are forms of fibrosis which involve scarring of the lungs. They cause breathlessness and a dry cough which can leave a significant disability and can be fatal. These diseases often result in the sufferer being entitled to compensation.

Symptoms of asbestos related diseases

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness and pain
  • Persistent and productive cough
  • Crackles in the lung
  • Poor sleep and appetite loss
  • Lung tissue scarring
  • Lung cancer
  • Immunological damage