Leading Lawyer Expresses Concern Over Asbestos-Related Cancer Rates

Call for national research centre to help asbestos victims

04.03.2009

A leading Leeds solicitor has today expressed concern over new figures which suggest that as many as one in 17 UK carpenters born in the 1940s will die of asbestos-related lung cancer.

Ian Bailey, a partner and industrial disease expert at Irwin Mitchell, said more needed to be done to prevent future victims and called for a national research centre to be set up to help existing victims.

Experts writing in the British Journal of Cancer calculated the lifetime risk of mesothelioma among workers exposed to asbestos for more than 10 years before they reached the age of 30.

The report predicted that one in 17 carpenters would develop mesothelioma alongside one in 50 plumbers, electricians and decorators and one in 125 other construction workers.

The UK mesothelioma death rate is now the highest in the world, with 1,749 deaths in men in 2005, equivalent to one in 40 of all male cancer deaths below the age of 80. In 2005, there were also 288 deaths in women.

Ian Bailey said the figures were shocking and showed that tragically carpenters and joiners could be among the next wave of mesothelioma victims due to working on fire doors in the late 1960s and 1970s which contained Asbestolux.

"These figures are genuinely shocking. We have many clients who were carpenters and joiners at that time and were told that Asbestolux did not contain asbestos and was safe. We know now that it was anything but and actually contained brown asbestos," he said.

"Tragically, it is too late for many of those people now who have contracted mesothelioma simply by doing their job 30 or 40 years ago. But it just goes to show how important it is for joiners and carpenters working today, and for others in construction as well, to be aware every single day of what they are working with."

A recent HSE campaign targeted construction workers including carpenters but Ian Bailey also called for more research into mesothelioma to help existing victims, saying: “It is one thing to prevent future victims but for those who have already been exposed to asbestos we ought to be doing everything we can to find a cure for this dreadful disease, and to support victims and their families and ensure they get the compensation they deserve."

The research is the largest study of its kind and was funded by Cancer Research UK and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). More than 600 patients with mesothelioma and 1,400 healthy people were interviewed to examine UK rates of the disease linked to different jobs.