‘Lessons must be learnt’ say experts after shocking figures reveal the fatal legacy left by historic asbestos use in the region.
New figures show that six people die of asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma every day in England and Wales, with areas of the North-East having among the highest mortality rates for the disease.
The figures, released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), show that the North-East is paying the price of its industrial past, with mesothelioma deaths in Stockton as high as 8.5 deaths in every 100,000 people.
Darlington has the thirteenth highest rate of deaths from the disease, with 7.65 deaths in every 100,000 people – almost double the national average for England of 4.51.
In Middlesbrough this figure is 6.41 and in Redcar and Cleveland it is 6.55.
North Yorkshire fares better, with 1.97 deaths per 100,000 people in Richmondshire, 2.79 in Hambleton and 2.52 in Ryedale. County Durham’s mesothelioma death rate is 4.23 in every 100,000 people.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lungs and is linked with exposure to asbestos which was heavily used in industry after the Second World War and up the 1970s.
It can take decades before the disease emerges and it is always fatal, often within 18 months of diagnosis.
Neil Sugarman is the president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns for redress for sick and dying workers.
He described the asbestos legacy as “a national tragedy”, and went on to say;
“The suffering of families affected by mesothelioma demonstrates how important it is that lessons are learned and health and safety in the workplace is respected.
Areas such as Darlington, which has a high rate of deaths from mesothelioma, are no doubt seeing the effects of past industry where workers were negligently exposed to asbestos.
This is despite the risks being well-known since as far back as the 1950s.
People went to work and came home with a death sentence because their negligent employers exposed them to asbestos.”