Number of Mesothelioma deaths expected to peak
It has recently been reported that the borough of Crewe and Nantwich has the highest rate of mortality from mesothelioma in Cheshire. Employees who worked at the large railway engineering sites such as Crewe Works were exposed to the deadly substance which had been used abundantly since the 1940s until the 1980s, when it was finally banned in the UK.
Over the past 20 years, mesothelioma deaths in Crewe and Nantwich have steadily risen in line with the fact that a latency period of up to 60 years can apply between exposure to asbestos and development of the disease.
Recent Health and Safety Executive statistics show that a total of 103 victims of mesothelioma passed away as a result of the illness from 1985 to 2004 in Crewe and Nantwich alone. This makes the borough the 16th highest area in the UK to have been affected so devastatingly by the illness.
Inquests were recently held for two former employees at Crewe Works who were found to have died from the disease. Both employees worked at Crewe Works when asbestos was being used in abundance and at a time when the dangers of the substance were not yet known.
The inquests heard of how employees at the site who were working the nightshifts regularly slept against the pipes that were heavily lagged with asbestos.
In a letter written by one of the employees before his death, he describes the asbestos dust falling all around him and covering his overalls as he worked. He described the deadly white, blue and brown coloured dust as a “sea of asbestos on the floor and in the air”.
Employees at Crewe Works were required to handle asbestos on a daily basis and were not provided with protective masks until much later on. Even then, the wearing of masks was not enforced and employees were not warned of the associated dangers and risks to their health.
The Coroner for Cheshire found no difficulty in his decision that both men had died from mesothelioma that they had developed as a result of their previous exposure of asbestos at work.
The UK has seen a steady increase in the number of mesothelioma deaths over the past 10 years. This increase is expected to reach a peak in the near future before numbers begin to fall.
In the late 1960s to early 1970s, the dangers of asbestos were becoming more widely known and this eventually led to a total ban of the material in the UK in the 1980s. Since then, industrial sites such as Crewe Works have introduced containment measures to ensure the safety of their employees.
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