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New figures reveal compensation for deadly diseases

PUBLISHED: 08:55 16 February 2015 | UPDATED: 08:55 16 February 2015

Beccles Library.

Beccles Library.

Archant © 2008

New figures have revealed how victims of asbestos-related diseases have been paid more than £200,000 in compensation from councils around the region over the past five years.

Great Yarmouth High School.
December 2013.

Picture: James Bass

Great Yarmouth High School. December 2013. Picture: James Bass

And local authorities have acknowledged potentially deadly asbestos is still present in scores of schools, homes, libraries, fire stations and other council properties in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

While councils stress the substance is not a risk to health if left undisturbed, compensation has been paid to former council workers who developed asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, after they were exposed to the dust during their employment.

Mesothelioma is a lung cancer which kills nearly 50 people a week in the UK. It is caused by exposure to specks of asbestos, which used to be used as coatings and insulation.

According to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there were 713 deaths from mesothelioma in Norfolk between 1981 and 2011; 593 in Suffolk; and 332 in Cambridgeshire.

What is mesothelioma?

-Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that can develop in the tissues covering the lungs or the abdomen.

-Pleural mesothelioma, the most common type, is in the tissue covering the lungs, while peritoneal mesothelioma is in the lining of the abdomen.

-Symptoms include pain in the chest or lower back, shortness of breath, a fever or night sweats, abdominal pain, unexplained fatigue, no appetite and weight loss.

-More than 2,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, and men are five times more likely to be diagnosed than women.

-Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a soft, greyish-white material that used to be widely used in building construction as a form of insulation and to protect against fire.

-The outlook for mesothelioma is poor because it is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage. Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma will die within three years of being diagnosed, and the average person survives for around 12 months.

-Every year in the UK, there are around 2,300 deaths from the condition and it is estimated that, by 2050,

90,000 people in the UK will have died as a result of mesothelioma.

Figures revealed council compensation payments for asbestos-related diseases since 2009 included three former Norwich City Council workers. A 65-year-old received £156,000 in 2009, while a 78-year-old and a 60-year-old received £35,300 and £10,700 in 2010. A 2012 claim by a 79-year-old has yet to be decided.

Other payments were to a former West Norfolk Council worker who repaired prefabricated council houses, who received more than £2,700 and just over £9,400 to an ex-Waveney District Council housing maintenance worker. There were no claims in Breckland, Broadland, South Norfolk or North Norfolk, while two claims to Great Yarmouth Borough Council were not successful. Cambridgeshire County Council has had four claims since 2009, of which one was successful, while Suffolk County Council has had three claims, of which two are ongoing.

One of those claims is from a former Suffolk pupil who claims to have developed the condition while at one of the county’s schools.

Norfolk County Council has received seven claims since 2009, for a total of just under £15,000. The council refused to reveal how many claims had been successful or how much had been paid.

Which buildings contain asbestos?

Council-owned Norfolk and Suffolk buildings which have been found to have asbestos:

-County Hall, Norwich

-Castle Museum

-Strangers’ Hall

-Wensum Lodge

-Sprowston High School

-Great Yarmouth High School

-Benjamin Britten High School, Lowestoft

-Cromer Fire Station

-Wymondham Fire Station

-Acle Fire Station

-King’s Lynn Library

-Beccles Library

-Brundall Library

-Swaffham Library

-Diss Register Office

-Thetford Register Office

But a spokesman did say it had spent more than £2m over the past five years to remove materials which contain asbestos from its buildings.

Dozens of schools, libraries, fire stations, Norwich Castle and County Hall itself, all contain such materials, the council confirmed.

Derryth Wright, health safety and wellbeing manager at Norfolk County Council, said: “The HSE states that asbestos does not pose a risk to health when it is intact and in good condition, and our programme of work reflects this position.

“All of our schools have had a survey undertaken to identify and assess the condition of asbestos containing materials (ACM).”

Norwich City Council says 2,327 properties, including council houses, are identified as having low-risk types of asbestos, such as in some types of Artex or vinyl floor tiles.

A spokesman said it was “highly unlikely to release asbestos fibres in normal use” but that there were plans for removal in 636 properties.

Are you taking legal action after developing an asbestos-related disease? Email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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