Severity of asbestos-related disease highlighted on Workers’ Memorial Day

Graham Buckland, with his daughter Lorna. Photo: Irwin Mitchell

Graham Buckland, with his daughter Lorna. Photo: Irwin Mitchell - Credit: Irwin Mitchell

Specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers are speaking out on Workers' Memorial Day about the dangers of asbestos and their concern over the number of deaths linked to exposure of the substance in public buildings.

Workers' Memorial Day today (April 28), is a day to 'remember the dead and to fight for the living' by paying respects to those who have died as a result of their employment, continuing to improve health and safety standards in the workplace, and increase protection in place for employees.

Latest figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that the number of asbestos- related disease deaths in the UK in 2015 was over 3000.

The vast majority of these deaths, 2,542, were caused by mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the lungs. The disease is commonly associated with exposure to asbestos, and it often takes decades for symptoms to show following this exposure.

The number of deaths caused by mesothelioma between 1981 and 2015 in Norfolk was 894. Although the majority of those were men, women accounted for 128 of those deaths. In Suffolk, the figure stands at 764 deaths with women accounting for 133.

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Inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres cannot only cause mesothelioma, as well as lung cancer, but also other serious lung diseases. These include asbestosis and plural thickening.

Graham Buckland, a former college technician from Emneth, near Wisbech, was diagnosed with mesothelioma just over 18 months ago.

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Mr Buckland, 77, was diagnosed following a biopsy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn.

His legal team believe he may have been exposed to the deadly asbestos dust and fibres while working as a technician at Dacorum College, Hemel Hempstead, for Herefordshire County Council between 1982 and 1992.

Mr Buckland said: 'The tiles were often removed, replaced and drilled into, during a range of refurbishment work and, as I had not been given any warnings or protection, I would tend to sweep up any dust myself. When the asbestos removal works eventually took place, it's quite likely that I was again exposed to asbestos dust.

'When you go to work you simply never expect that your health may be put at risk, yet I'm stunned by the fact that this appears to be the case.'

Specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have taken up Mr Buckland's case.

Rosemary Giles, a partner at the firm's Cambridge office, said: 'These latest figures highlight the sad reality that we see day to day in our work.

'That reality is many people are dying due to asbestos exposure in their past. The majority of those exposed to asbestos were done so at work, and were completely unaware of the dangers of asbestos when exposed to it.'

Ms Giles, who is also a senior litigator and an Association of Personal Injury Lawyers-accredited asbestos disease specialist, added: 'Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive and incurable cancer and it causes a great deal of suffering to those affected by it. That's why it is so important that we work to get justice for them, and answers for how and where they were exposed to asbestos.

'The first asbestos regulations, to manage the use of asbestos because of its danger to health, became law in 1931, so to learn that people were exposed to the fibres much later is very upsetting for the individuals or the families who come to us.

'Now, we are fully aware of the dangers, and fatalities are regularly publicised, it seems only right that robust measures are put in place to ensure when the time comes, the removal of this potentially deadly substance is managed properly.'

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