Deadly toll of asbestos in Norfolk

The scale of asbestos-related disease being suffered in Norfolk has been highlighted by new figures. The county has been placed among the worst in England for people receiving medical treatment for mesothelioma.

The scale of asbestos-related disease being suffered in Norfolk has been highlighted by new figures.

The county has been placed among the worst in England for people receiving medical treatment for mesothelioma.

Figures released in Parlia-ment show that in 2004/2005, 51 people were being treated for cancer of the lining of the lungs or abdomen, which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos - the 15th highest out of 90 local authority areas.

Campaigners fighting for compensation and better treatment for mesothelioma sufferers have told of their fears that the true scale of the problem is yet to be uncovered.

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson, who is part of a campaign to have drugs which can ease the cancer available on the NHS, said: "I am not sure why Norwich figures so highly, perhaps it is to do with health and safety measures at factories, a less strong trade union movement, smaller businesses and more factories with asbestos. There are also a lot of houses that are full of asbestos.

"I think the explosion of asbestos-related illnesses has not yet reached its peak. It has been a huge problem over the last few years but I think there is still more to come."

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Doreen Mingay, 71, from Alexandra Road, Norwich, whose husband Derek, 74, died in 2004 after being exposed to asbestos while working in the Navy, said: "I can't say I am surprised really, not with the type of industry and factories that we had in Norwich. I think there are still an awful lot of people who have got it and don't even know.

"What they need to do is test all the people who might be at risk and then they can treat them. It is too late for me and my husband but it might help others have a longer life."

The area with the most cases was Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster with 123, followed by Avon with 108; Suffolk had 31 and Cambridge-shire 70.

Norwich solicitor Godfrey Morgan, whose Clarence Road-based law firm is a leading specialist in asbestos cases, said: "I am not surprised by this at all. This is because Norfolk is a popular place for people to retire. I have dealt with numerous cases where people from places like the London Docklands have moved to the area and sadly died from asbestos-related diseases."

Last month it emerged that compensation laws, which made it harder for victims of mesothelioma and bereaved relatives to bring a successful case if they had been employed by more than one company, were reformed.

However, earlier this year sufferers were dealt a blow when the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) withdrew the drug Alimta, which can help prolong the lives of patients affected by exposure to asbestos.