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More women dying from mesothelioma

Author: Gail Harris

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is caused by inhaling asbestos fibres. Unlike most other cancers, mesothelioma lies dormant for many years after exposure. In some cases, it can be as long as 50 years before the disease develops, but once it does, it can become fatal very quickly.

Recent studies by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that since 2012, the number of mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain has remained steady at around 2,500 a year. The majority are men but the number of deaths among women has been increasing over the last 40 years.

Because of the nature of the disease, it will probably be 2020 before the overall numbers start to decline, although the number of female deaths is expected to continue to increase.

Many of the men that are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma were employed in occupations such as metal plate workers, often associated with shipbuilding. However, around half the mesotheliomas among men born in the 1940’s can be attributed to the construction industry, with the majority being directly linked to carpentry. A key factor in this is probably the prevalent use throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s of insulation boarding containing amosite, or brown asbestos, which was used for fire protection in buildings.

The number of both male and female deaths associated with specific industries is probably underestimated though, because only the last occupation is recorded on the death certificate.

For many years, it has been accepted that women contracting the disease had done so because of direct contact with a spouse or partner who unwittingly brought the fibres home on their clothing. The HSE study suggests that women could have also contracted the disease simply by working in the vicinity of someone who was handling asbestos.

Only around a third of female deaths can be attributed to either occupational or domestic exposure; the majority are unknown.

A separate study has shown that over the last 10 years, more than 140 school teachers have died of mesothelioma, as well as teaching assistants, caretakers, cleaners, school secretaries and nursery nurses. If school staff are being exposed to asbestos, then so are the children in their classes. However, because of the long latency there are no records of the number of children who have subsequently died.

More information about asbestos and the support available locally can be found on the SARAG website.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with any asbestos related disease, such as asbestosis or mesothelioma, we could help you recover compensation that you are entitled to by law. Contact us for a no obligation chat about your options.

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