Supporting Action Mesothelioma Day

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Friday 1st July is Action Mesothelioma Day 2011 - the day when victims of mesothelioma, their families and those that support and represent them try to raise awareness nationally of the dreadful disease of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that affects the mesothelium, the lining of the cavity that holds the body's internal organs. The disease is caused by microscopic asbestos fibres which are so tiny that they are able to pass though the lungs and become lodged in the mesothelium. When they become stuck in this way the tiny fibres can irritate the surrounding cells and trigger changes in those cells that can become malignant and the resulting cancer is known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can be caused after only slight or intransient exposure to airborne asbestos fibres, however the time between the fibre becoming lodged in the lungs and the first symptoms of the disease can be anything from 20 to even 60 years. Once diagnosed, the majority of victims will die within 18 months. It is a painful and frightening death and is harrowing to witness.

Asbestos is not a naturally occurring mineral in the UK, however it is still often found in buildings that were constructed or refurbished in the post war period up to the 1980s. Asbestos was used widely in schools, hospitals, boiler rooms, factories and even in homes built in this period. The dangers of asbestos have been known about for the past 60 years, however many employers (including the government and the armed forces) were slow to react to this knowledge - often negligently slow - and continued to place their employees at grave risk. If someone has been exposed to asbestos at work after about 1960, the chances are that their employer should have known better and should have taken steps to prevent exposure altogether - this is why lawyers become involved. Our industrial legacy has led to cities like Bristol having one of the highest incidences of mesothelioma in terms of population. In England and Wales this year 2000 people are expected to die from mesothelioma and this high rate of deaths will continue probably for the next 10 years before starting to fall again.

Even now asbestos is still hidden away in many public and private buildings - particularly schools - and there really is a time bomb. Action Mesothelioma Day is so important because the only way to prevent deaths in the future is to ensure that people are educated about the dangers of asbestos today, where it is usually found, what it looks like. Russia, Canada and Zimbabwe continue to mine and export the substance, even though the dangers are well known to the authorities. For example Canada exports $90 million of asbestos every year. It really is a case of profit being put above the health and safety of workers, and undoubtedly the decision by these countries not to ban asbestos but to continue to export it will result in tens of thousands of needless deaths for at least the next 50 years.

The staff of Simpson Millar, a local law firm that specialise in asbestos disease claims, are holding a number of events today across all of its 10 offices and will donate the entire proceeds to The British Lung Foundation. Other law firms and victim groups are holding a rally on the harbour side in Bristol. Emma Costin, head of asbestos litigation at Simpson Millar, comments:

"During Action Mesothelioma Day we aim to draw attention to the suffering of victims today and campaign to increase resource to try to make their final months of life as comfortable as possible. We campaign to raise funds to support research to find a treatment or even a cure for the disease. We campaign to raise awareness of the global scandal of asbestos production and the sad reality that probably hundreds of thousands of people will die from mesothelioma, sadly all of those deaths are preventable."


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