Fewer compensation claims for asbestos-related lung cancer than mesothelioma, despite similar risks
Although many sufferers of asbestos-related mesothelioma can now expect to claim compensation, the same is not true of lung cancer, regardless of whether the condition was caused by asbestos
According to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE's) awareness campaign, Asbestos: The Hidden Killer
, 20 tradespeople die in Britain every week due to asbestos-related lung diseases.
Despite asbestos' ban in 1999, many people are still gravely affected by exposure to the material
. While mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that attacks the membrane around the lung, is the most notorious asbestos-related disease, others include a type of lung cancer
similar to that linked to smoking.
However, perhaps due to the smoking connection
, fewer compensation awards are made for asbestos-related lung cancer.
With some 4,000 fatalities annually and rising, inhalation of asbestos fibres causes the UK's highest proportion of work-related deaths
, mainly among tradespeople such as plumbers, builders, plasterers and electricians.
The HSE says that since the ban was enforced some years ago, many tradesmen believe risk is now negligible. But because asbestos remains present in about 500,000 older buildings
, many built before the 1999 ban, workers are still in danger of exposure.
Loosening asbestos when a building containing the material is repaired, refurbished or demolished, particularly if the work involves cutting and drilling, can lead to inhalation of its fibres
as fine dust.
If the exposure leads to mesothelioma, there is no known cure, although symptoms can be relieved and life prolonged
by means of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Sufferers of mesothelioma can usually expect to be able to claim compensation. However, perhaps surprisingly, the same does not hold true for lung cancer
, irrespective of whether contracting the latter was a direct result of asbestos exposure.
The HSE believes tradespeople must be educated
about the dangers of asbestos and its relevance to them. "We want them to change the way they work so that they don't put their lives at risk," said Steve Coldrick, director of the HSE's Disease Reduction Programme.
If you are worried about the possible presence of asbestos at work, or you'd like to know more, the HSE has a helpline (0845 345 0055) and a web page (www.hse.gov.uk/hiddenkiller
) from where you can obtain a free asbestos information pack
and find out whereabouts in a building asbestos might be found.