Campaign To Protect Workers As Plymouth, Cornwall, Bristol and Wiltshire See Hundreds Of Mesothelioma Deaths
More than 5,000 people across the South West have died from a form of cancer linked to exposure to asbestos in the past 30 years, government figures reveal.
And Plymouth is ranked the sixth highest in the local authority areas of Great Britain which have seen above expected number of men die from mesothelioma, a form of terminal cancer which often develops decades after exposure to hazardous asbestos.
The figures published by the Health and Safety Executive highlight the ‘terrible legacy’ of the area’s industrial heritage, say specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell. The law firm’s Bristol asbestos-related disease team has represented hundreds of families affected by mesothelioma.
Irwin Mitchell is now marking International Workers’ Memorial Day by continuing their fight for justice for those killed as a result of poor working conditions.
The annual event on 28 April is a day to “remember the dead; fight for the living”. This year’s theme is entitled “dangerous substances – get them out of the workplace” and will have a particular focus on asbestos.
Expert Opinion“The reality is thousands of people are dying due to asbestos exposure in the past. The majority of those were exposed at work, and were completely unaware of the dangers of the hazardous material. There has also been a rise in the past five years of people becoming ill who simply washed the clothes of workers decades ago as the harmful asbestos fibres were thrown into the air.
“Workers’ Memorial Day is an important time to reflect on the terrible impact that asbestos has had on so many lives. These HSE figures highlight the tragic reality that we see day to day in our work.” Virginia Chalmers - Partner
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The most up to date HSE statistics date from 1981 to 2015. They show that a total of 5,154 people – 4,483 men and 671 women – across the South West, died from mesothelioma.
Plymouth recorded the highest number of deaths with 563 – 534 men and 29 women. Second and third on the list were Cornwall with 547 – 469 men and 78 women - and City of Bristol with 370 – 315 men and 55 women.
A total of 342 people in Wiltshire and 248 in Swindon also died from mesothelioma.
Plymouth was ranked sixth in Great Britain for the areas with the highest standard mortality ratio among men. The figure compares the amount of actual mesothelioma deaths to how many were expected to be recorded in the area. Between 1981 and 2015 534 men died of the cancer as opposed to the expected 191.
Expert Opinion“Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive and incurable cancer and, very sadly, causes a great deal of suffering to those affected by it.
“We often see cases where those working in industries such as the construction industry or the shipbuilding and maritime industry where the use of asbestos was prevalent, are often diagnosed with mesothelioma many years after their exposure.
“We believe that these figures highlight the terrible legacy that the use of asbestos in the workplace has created in the area. That’s why it is so important that we work to get justice and answers for those who were exposed to asbestos.” Virginia Chalmers - Partner
Inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres can also cause lung cancer and other serious diseases, including asbestosis and pleural thickening.
Trade union the TUC is a key organiser of Workers’ Memorial Day. Public events are being held to commemorate the day.
On Sunday a march and rally will be held in Bristol. People are being asked to congregate at Tony Benn House in Victoria Street. A march will set off at midday to Castle Park where speeches and laying of wreaths will take place.