Asbestos and Mesothelioma - An Open Letter to The Telegraph and Christopher Booker


A recent article in The Telegraph written by Mr Christopher Booker titled "Asbestos Judgement Fuels Bogus Claims" attacked a Supreme Court judgment on asbestos related mesothelioma claims from 2011. Booker claims the judgment was made on a "disastrous scientific error", but we're unsure which evidence he's been looking at.

His bold statement that 25% cases of mesothelioma "naturally occur" must be wrong. I am sure that the number of mesothelioma cases where no history of asbestos exposure can be found is less than 5%. Figures on the Cancer Research UK website estimate that 9 in 10 men, and 8 in 10 women with mesothelioma have been in contact with asbestos. Also what about the equivalent number of annual lung cancer deaths (over 2000 suspected) where it's not mesothelioma but asbestos was a material contributor? These people usually get nothing.

Mr Booker also claims that 90% of asbestos products can't cause mesothelioma as they consist of white asbestos. He says only the blue and brown forms of asbestos are harmful and not white asbestos. Mr Booker is clearly disagreeing then with research by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that found white asbestos "is implicated as a cause of both lung cancer and mesothelioma" and "cannot be called safe by any reasonable person."(Geoffrey Podger, HSE, Oct 2009)

Mr Booker also cites John Bridle of 'Asbestos Watchdog' and calls him the "country's most experienced practical expert on asbestos". In actual fact The Guardian reported in 2011 that a number of Mr Bridle's accreditations were virtually non-existent. He has even been prosecuted by Glamorgan University's trading standards department for falsely claiming to hold a qualification with them.

My first thought was that Mr Booker must be in the pay of the insurance industry, but on a second look it appears that Mr Booker seems to have a track record of making misinformed allegations not just with regards to asbestos but also global warming, a certain UK family court case, the European Union and speed cameras. This begs the question as to why The Telegraph is allowing an individual rebuked for inaccuracies to be published.

These bold claims by Booker are harmful to the current hard work by organisations campaigning to raise awareness of asbestos, and to the families of those who have lost loved ones to asbestos related mesothelioma. Employers must remain aware of the importance of keeping their employees safe from the dangers of asbestos, downplaying the necessity of this is damaging.

It's worth mentioning that mesothelioma compensation pay-outs are usually in excess of £150,000 and that solicitors in the UK do not deduct anything from the client's compensation – the victim keeps 100%. Legal costs for pursuing a mesothelioma claims are usually between £25,000 and £40,000 depending on the fight put up by the insurers. Those costs are paid by the insurers and do not come out of the victim's compensation.

Asbestos solicitors constantly strive to achieve justice for the victim and earlier admissions of guilt by the employer would drastically reduce the legal costs in having to prove the claims (and reduce the time such claims take) but such admissions are sadly rarely forthcoming.

Furthermore, no compensation is ever paid out to a victim of mesothelioma "automatically". The Claimant always has to demonstrate the presence of mesothelioma and also prove that exposure to asbestos has caused it, often by using a combination of expert medical and engineering evidence from suitable experts.

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