Mesothelioma and asbestos disease in Wales – two Welsh patients diagnosed every week


Mesothelioma and other cancers caused by asbestos kill more people every year than road accidents. Exposure to asbestos causes cancer that takes decades to develop, but is unforgiving in its growth when diagnosed – mesothelioma sufferers do not survive more than a year after diagnosis.

Now the focus is on Wales as a £5.7million scheme is announced to remove asbestos from Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Denbighshire – one of the half million public and commercial buildings which still contain asbestos in the UK. The dangers of exposure to asbestos were flagged up over 100 years ago, yet it was only in 1999 that a total ban on the use of asbestos was brought into force.

And, of course, that means that many, many workers have been exposed to asbestos during their lives and only now, 30, 40, even 50 years later are they receiving the devastating news that they have mesothelioma or another asbestos-related cancer. In fact, the numbers of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are expected to peak in the next five to ten years.

Asbestos exposure is a hazard to your health – image

At the moment, two Welsh patients are diagnosed with asbestos cancer such as mesothelioma every week. Paul Lewis, aged 67 from the Vale of Glamorgan, is one. He had worked as a heating and ventilation engineer for most of his career, which meant long-term exposure to asbestos. As Paul says: "It (removing asbestos) made a lot of dust. We did used to wear very limited masks, but I don't think they were right for doing the job that we were doing."

Paul was diagnosed with mesothelioma just before Christmas, 2010.

Asbestos-related cancer is so cruel in that it has been caused by the very jobs that hard workers have held down to provide for their families. And many firms knew, or should have known, that they were putting their workers at risk by exposing them to asbestos without the proper protection – and this is why people diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos cancers can claim compensation.

The Cardiff-based cancer charity Tenovus helps a growing number of people with mesothelioma and is expecting to help even more as mesothelioma diagnoses increase. Their helpline covers the whole of Wales and trained staff can help with everything from practical details such as advice on how to cope financially through to emotional support. They, more than anyone, know that time is of the essence for people suffering from mesothelioma.

It’s now believed that tradesmen are most at risk of being diagnosed with mesothelioma – the Health and Safety Executive estimates that eight joiners, four plumbers and six electricians may die each week from the effects of asbestos. For the last three years it has been running a Hidden Killer campaign to educate tradesmen on the dangers of asbestos.

Sarah Mallagh from the HSE's asbestos unit, said: "This has been a multi-media approach targeting tradesmen, raising their awareness that there is the legacy, that asbestos is still in buildings and alerting them to the fact that they need to get appropriate training.

"Also to the fact that people that manage or are in control of the maintenance of buildings have duties to identify where there might be asbestos and provide that information to anyone who comes into the building to carry out work."

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma caused by your/their work, you may be entitled to claim asbestos compensation. Useful links

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