Asbestos toll has not hit its peak
The number of cancer cases triggered by exposure to the killer substance asbestos has not reached its peak yet, senior medical experts warned today.
Mesothelioma – a malignant tumour of the lung lining – currently kills about 1,800 people in the UK each year.
But doctors, writing in the British Medical Journal, said a peak in casualties was not likely to happen until 2015, at the earliest, when the death rate could eventually be as high as 2,000 a year.
Their research suggests thousands of workers in the building trade, and other industries who came into contact with asbestos before regulations were tightened in the early 1980s are likely to be struck down by the disease.
People rarely fall victim to the disease less than 25 years after breathing in asbestos fibres and the onset of the illness can often take as long as 50 years.
Scores of people in the Bristol area have already died from the disease and doctors predict many more are likely to fall victim to asbestos-related illnesses in the next decade.
David Hill, aged 59 of Weston-super-Mare was diagnosed with mesothelioma three years ago, but believes he has had it for several decades.
He claims he was exposed to asbestos while working in the British Rail coachworks in the 1960s.
He said: “I was contaminated with blue asbestos when I was 16. It was everywhere where I worked in the railway workshop.
“When I got to 37, my life started to crumble, health wise. My nails started to fall off and I got pains in my chest and down my arm.”
Mr Hill said he turned into a different person as he questioned his ill health, which led to the breakdown of his marriage.
In the report published today, doctors, including Professor Tom Treasure of Guy’s Hospital in London said: “The peak of the epidemic is expected in 2015 to 2020 when the death rate is likely to be 2,000 per year in the UK.”
UK regulations now mean that asbestos has to be removed from buildings, when it is discovered, by specialist operators using protective equipment.
“Bristol Evening Post”: 30.1.04