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As Death Rate Rises, Warning That Dangers of Asbestos Still Exist

As Death Rate Rises, Warning That Dangers of Asbestos Still Exist.

Byline: By Emma Brady Health Reporter The Birmingham Post (England), October 2, 2006

Asbestos-related deaths have risen sharply in the West Midlands with the mortality rate set to peak in 2011.

The heat-resistant material, used in the building industry from the 1950s to 1980s, can cause mesothelioma, a particularly aggressive cancer for which there is no cure.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures reveal 519 men in the region died from the industrial disease between 1981 and 2000, an average of 27 deaths a year.

But in the three years between 2001 and 2003, the number of mesothelioma deaths was 373, about 123 men a year.

Today delegates at a HSE leadership summit at Villa Park, the home of Aston Villa Football Club, will be urged to find ways to lessen exposure to lethal asbestos dust.

While its report reveals that the asbestos removal industry has made progress in reducing exposure and doing more to prevent ill health at work, there is still room for improvement.

As the effects of asbestos use in the building industry continued into the mid-1980s, some mesothelioma cases are only just being diagnosed, as it can take 20 or 40 years to develop.

The disease takes two forms. Pleural mesothelioma is caused when asbestos fibres become embedded in the lining of the lungs, resulting in extreme chest pain. Similarly, in peritoneal mesothelioma, the abdomen warms thicken, causing serious pain.

Alida Coates, a workplace disease expert of Birmingham-based law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "Over the past 20 years, we have represented hundreds of sufferers of asbestos-related diseases.

"Sadly the number of asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma remain on the increase.

"People don't realise asbestos is still present in buildings.

"I regularly see clients, diagnosed with this disease, who had been in contact with asbestos in the 1990s and some who continued to work with asbestos until they were diagnosed with this fatal disease."

Irwin Mitchell is supporting the HSE's Don't Take The Gamble initiative launched last month, which aims to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos, which can be found in any building erected before 2000.

Ms Coates added: "Unlike other cancers, medical experts believe the incidence of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancer cases will rise further.

"Governments and employers have known asbestos causes cancer for many decades and yet they continued to expose generations of men and women to this fatal substance."