The United Kingdom possesses one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, largely because the UK government permitted the use of asbestos long after other countries outlawed the mineral’s use.
In addition to permitting the use of asbestos, shipbuilders historically are among the people most affected by mesothelioma, and the shipbuilding industry plays a large role in the history of the United Kingdom, especially around the time of World War II.
The cause of the disease is linked to asbestos exposure, and shipbuilding throughout the world featured hundreds of asbestos products used for insulation, including those vessels used in the British Armed Forces.
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The material was considered ideal for use aboard ships until the 1980s. Asbestos could be found in the engine and boiler rooms, as well as in the walls, floors and ceilings of rooms such as the sleeping quarters and the galley. Shipbuilders and those who served on military vessels could have inhaled airborne asbestos fibers while working on the ships.
However, researchers acknowledge it is possible that the percentage of people contracting mesothelioma in the UK is the same now as it was then, but tracking the disease is now much better.