Law firm calls for Government action on Asbestos Cancer epidemic

Asbestos cancer research

06.12.2005

A West Yorkshire law firm has welcomed the publication of new research, highlighting that Britain is facing a cancer epidemic which is killing 50 people every day.

The Leeds office of national law firm Irwin Mitchell supports a new survey by the TUC and Hazards magazine which states that occupational cancer cases have been almost entirely missed in Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics. The report calls for an urgent and fully resourced public health response.

The HSE suggests that just four per cent of the UK's annual cancer death toll results from exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, which is equal to 6,000 deaths a year.

However, Burying the evidence, a report by Hazards, the TUC-backed health and safety magazine, concludes that the incidence of occupational cancer in the UK is actually much higher at between 12,000 and 24,000 deaths a year (the equivalent of 16 per cent of all cancer deaths in the UK).

Jonathan Kay, from Bingley in Bradford, died in August 2005 at the age of 40. Shortly before his death, he learned his employer, Kelda Group plc (formerly Yorkshire Water Authority), had admitted liability for the asbestos cancer that was to kill him.

Four months before his death from mesothelioma, a cruel and invariably fatal asbestos cancer, he said: "There was a level of dust that you could see in the air. You could taste it in your mouth." Mr Kay said his employers never provided protective equipment, even though the government had introduced strict regulations regarding the use of asbestos some 20 years previously.

Paul Webber, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell In Leeds, said: "Mr Kay fought hard for justice for himself, but most importantly for him and his young family. Despite clearly being in extreme pain, he continued in his quest and, although he did not live to receive the compensation, Mr Kay died secure in the knowledge that his family would be protected."

About asbestos cancer

Asbestos cancer destroys the lining of the lungs and can take 60 years to show itself. It can be caused by the inhalation of a single fibre of the mineral and usually kills within 12 months of diagnosis.

June Hancock was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1994, although she had never worked in the asbestos industry. As a child growing up in Armley, Leeds, she had played among the deadly dust blowing out of the JW Roberts asbestos factory, which closed in the 1950's.

June's mother had also died of asbestos cancer in 1982. June decided to fight for justice and took Turner Newall, Roberts' parent company, to court as the first case of a mesothelioma sufferer who had not worked with asbestos.

She secured a landmark victory in 1995, before dying on July 19th, 1997.

Paul Webber continued: "Both these cases form part of an emerging epidemic which authorities have failed to spot and, for the new generation of workplace killers, are doing precious little to prevent.

"Irwin Mitchell has joined with the TUC and Hazards magazine in calling for the real level of occupational cancers to be recognised and for urgent action to be undertaken on behalf of the government for more safeguards for those exposed to dangerous materials, and for the full range of those hazards to be recognised."

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