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Thursday, 12 July 2012

Asbestos - even the Romans knew...


So what is the big deal about asbestos? We all know that it was a flame proof substance that was used in the building trade years and years ago. We all know that it is life threatening and its use was banned sometime in the 1990s. So isn’t that the end of the matter?

Sadly it is not the end of the matter. The effects of asbestos will be with us for years.

The use of asbestos goes back many years, possibly centuries. It is a natural mineral which was mined by the Romans. The name comes from the Greek word meaning indestructible. The dangers were known even then. Historians talk of illnesses which it might cause and some warned against buying slaves who had worked with it because they tended not to live long.

But it became used at an industrial level in the 1950s and 60s and was widely used in the constructions of buildings and ships because it was fireproof and cheap. Throughout that time the dangers were well known.

But why is it still a problem in 2012? This is because of the nature of the fibres which can be in someone’s lungs for many years before anything happens. I once did a case for a railway worker who was exposed in the 1940s and became ill in about 2002. He developed mesothelioma and died within months.

A report back in 1999 was predicting 250k deaths by 2035 and we are seeing that happening –


The danger is still present in some older buildings so the figures could get worse. This is why householders are advised to take care when carrying out DIY –


Lawyers will be dealing with these cases for many years. During the recent debates over the funding of litigation proposals to restrict the rights of claimants in mesothelioma cases (this is the worst of the asbestos related illnesses, almost only ever caused by asbestos and almost always fatal). The proposals could see victims losing up to 25% of their damages. It is simply a delay pending further investigations  


If there is one group of workers who deserve all the support that society can offer it is these. They were exposed to a life threatening substance whose dangers were well documented.

Great work is being done to campaign for victims especially by Merseyside MP Bill Esterton and Trade Unions. I would hope that all us will support this fight.

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