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Asbestos Deaths Yet to Peak

Byline: By Gayle Tomlinson Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), September 13, 2004

Thousands of North East people are sitting on an asbestos time bomb.

Figures show asbestos deaths will not peak for another 11 years, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) warning that 26,950 people will die before 2015, with a maximum of 2450 deaths a year.

And experts are concerned that many victims and their families will face difficulties in obtaining compensation as the number of claims rises.

Roger Maddocks, a partner at Grey Street law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "Because of the long time lag between exposure to asbestos and development of mesothelioma, typically anything between 10 and 50 years, many victims or their families will face difficulties in obtaining compensation as the companies responsible ( or those companies' insurers ( will not be traceable or will be insolvent."

The shocking figures bring home the horror of the deadly diseases suffered by those who used asbestos in the workplace during the 60s and 70s.

The new figures have also prompted a call for the Government to increase medical research into the treatment for asbestos related lung disease mesothelioma.

Mr Maddocks said: "Diagnosis of mesothelioma is almost invariably followed by death within three years.

"There is a need for greater research into finding an effective treatment for the condition, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the region."

Retired naval officer Tom Mushett, 70, passed away in August last year after being diagnosed with the rare form of asbestos-linked lung cancer, mesothelioma after 32 as a ship mechanic.

His wife Rosemarie, 69, from Dinnington, said: "It was a real shock to us because we had no idea that's what the problem might have been.

"At his inquest the coroner said many people in the North East will suffer from asbestos-related illnesses because of its industrial history.

"I think as much should be done as possible to help support for people with these kind of illnesses and compensation should be given to them."

The annual number of deaths in the UK from mesothelioma has increased from 153 in 1968 to 1862 in 2002 and will not peak for another several years.