The HSE has published latest statistics (collated up to 2017) regarding deaths caused by exposure to asbestos.
Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, and other serious lung diseases such as asbestosis and pleural thickening.
There were 2,523 mesothelioma deaths in 2017 and is estimated that there were, in addition, a similar number of deaths due to asbestos-related lung cancer.
There are four main diseases associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres.
- Mesothelioma – a form of cancer mainly affecting the lining of the lungs
- Asbestos related lung cancer
- Asbestosis – a non-malignant scarring of the lung tissue
- Non malignant pleural disease (diffuse pleural thickening and pleural plaques)
Most mesothelioma deaths occurring now are a legacy of past occupational exposures to asbestos when it was widely used in the building industry.
The latest information shows:
- There were 2,523 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2017, broadly similar to the previous five years.
- The latest projections suggest that there will continue to be around 2,500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before annual numbers begin to decline.
- Annual deaths are continuing to increase among those aged 75 years or over, but are reducing among those aged below 70 years.
- In 2017 there were 2,025 male deaths – a slight increase on previous years, and 493 female deaths, a slight fall.
- There were 2,025 new cases of mesothelioma assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) in 2017 of which 240 were female, compared with 2,170 in 2016 of which 235 were female.
- Men who worked in the building industry when asbestos was used extensively are now among those most at risk of mesothelioma.