We all know it’s a dangerous substance but, as #World Cancer Day approaches on 4 February, we should take note of the devastating impact the material is having on families who had no idea they had ever come into contact with it.
In the UK, the numbers of asbestos-related deaths of those who have never even worked with the lethal material seem to be on the rise. Cases of mesothelioma, the cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, are not limited to the more expected male builder or industrial worker. Recent reports demonstrate how asbestos has reached much further.
From women contracting the disease after washing family members’ dusty overalls, to primary school teachers who, unwittingly pinned up pupils’ work on asbestos-ridden notice boards, the news stories just keep on coming.
It’s possible that school pupils themselves are dying from the disease. The youngest person to die from the disease was Sophie Ellis from Stowmarket, Suffolk, who was just 18 when she died in 2010.
It’s also believed several people who have since died were exposed after asbestos particles became airborne when a fire broke out at an army base.
Even people who worked in engineering can’t figure out when or where they were exposed to the substance, and so have no legal recourse.
Despite hopes that numbers of asbestos-related disease cases had peaked, experts say they see no sign of numbers falling. Brian Robinson, a legal expert on asbestos-related disease at Roberts Jackson, the Industrial Disease specialist, said:
“My perception is, if anything, the numbers of asbestos-related cases are rising. When you think mesothelioma can take typically 30 years to manifest itself, if not more, we can expect to see many more cases in this decade and the next. There’s also a significant number of non-occupational exposure cases appearing, including even pupils having been exposed whilst at school. The long incubation period for diseases like mesothelioma means it’s almost impossible to fully know the scale of what we could be facing.”
"Its almost impossible to fully know the scale of what we could be facing."