New figures reveal compensation for deadly diseases
- Credit: 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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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