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Asbestos Link To Heart Disease Raises Questions Over ‘True Danger’ Of Material

Experts Call For More Research Into ‘Disturbing’ Findings


Lawyers involved in a landmark judgment which provided clarity to thousands affected by asbestos-related disease have called for more research to be carried out to discover the ‘true danger’ of the material, after it was linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Researchers at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton, Derbyshire* have revealed that, based on standardised mortality ratios, workers exposed to asbestos as part of their job are more likely to die of heart disease or stroke.

It was also found that longer exposure to asbestos meant there was a greater chance of dying from heart disease, while women are more likely than men to be affected by such health problems as a result of exposure.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist asbestos related disease team represents victims who have developed mesothelioma cancer following exposure to the material, as well as families who have lost loved ones to the devastating illnesses associated with the dust.

The team recently represented the lead claimant in a Supreme Court case where it was ruled that insurers covering employers at the time of a worker’s exposure to asbestos should be liable for the illness problems they have endured – a decision which means a huge number of people are now able to gain justice in relation to the issue.

David Urpeth, Partner and national head of workplace illness and injury at the firm, said: “It has been well known for some time that exposure to asbestos can lead to significant health risks, but these disturbing findings could have massive implications when it comes to the dangers attributed to asbestos exposure.

“Potentially, it may mean that many more people than first realised could have developed health problems as a result of contact with the material, including a huge number of fatalities which may have been regarded at inquest as deaths by natural causes.

“It is vital that more research is undertaken to further investigate the claims that have emerged from this study, with a view to providing more evidence to confirm just how dangerous asbestos exposure really is.”

David added that many families whose loved ones have worked closely with the material will be seeking further reassurances.

He explained: “It has only been a few days since the Supreme Court provided a level of legal certainty to so many sufferers and this research potentially creates a huge element of uncertainty in relation to the medical aspect.

“We clearly need more answers on the true danger of asbestos and it is vital that further research is made a very real priority.”

*Link to research: Harding A, et al. Cardiovascular disease mortality among British asbestos workers (1971–2005). Occup Environ Med 2012; Advance online publication