Asbestos cancer mesothelioma deaths at record high in the South West

The number of people dying from asbestos-related cancer in Cornwall is the highest it’s ever been. 

New data from the Health and Safety Executive shows mesothelioma has caused the deaths of 154 people in Cornwall between 2013 and 2017, compared to the 22 deaths reported between 1983 to 1987.

Inhaling asbestos fibres can lead to mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs and can take decades to develop. 

The UK has the highest incidence of the the cancer in the world because of the regular use of asbestos to construct buildings between 1940 and 1970. 

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The material was banned in 1999 but damage to older buildings can release the fibres into the air. 

“We built an awful lot of schools, hospitals, public buildings, housing estates during those decades, and asbestos was readily available. 

It’s very cheap, very pliable and it has amazing fire retardant properties so not surprisingly ,we used large amounts of asbestos so the fabric of our buildings are still to this day riddled with asbestos.

“85% of our schools. 95% of our hospitals, still contain asbestos”.

Liz Darlison, Mesothelioma UK , Head of Services

What can be done to lessen these statistics? 

The charity, Mesothelioma UK, is warning the danger posed by asbestos is often underestimated and is calling for actions to rid buildings of the deadly substance.

“I think we need to have a long term sensible approach  to managing asbestos. I think one of the first things we should do is re visit the evidence to look at what the safest levels of airborne asbestos are.

We probably need to look at how we manage asbestos surveying more effectively and enforce landlords and the people responsible for managing our public buildings to have up to date asbestos surveys that are readily available so that we protect the workforce.

I also think we need to educate the population about how widespread asbestos presence is in our country and how dangerous it could be”.

Liz Darlison, Mesothelioma UK , Head of Services

The Health and Safety Executive says it expects mortality rates from mesothelioma to decline after 2020.