A single type of asbestos cancer has killed over 2,500 people in Great Britain for three consecutive years, latest official statistics show.
National union federation the TUC, commenting on the release by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of mortality figures for mesothelioma, said although most people have probably never heard of the cancer, the new figures for 2014 show that “for the third year running, the number of deaths from mesothelioma has been over 2,500 and this level is likely to continue for at least the rest of the decade.”
The TUC calculates that since mesothelioma deaths figures were first published in 1968, “the number of people who are recorded as having died from mesothelioma in the past 46 years is 54,631. Given the high levels of under-diagnosis in previous decades, the true figure is much higher.”
TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson noted: “We could have prevented most of these deaths if the government had listened to the unions and safety campaigners instead of the employers and asbestos industry when asbestos was being widely used in the 1960s and 70s.
“The importation and use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999 so of course we are now told that mesothelioma is soon going to become a disease of the past. Well it is not. There are still millions of tonnes of it in place in at least half a million commercial properties, and every day thousands of workers are put at risk of breathing in the fatal fibre.”
He said while the government’s recent moves to compensate mesothelioma victims and to provide seed corn funding for a research centre into the condition was welcome, “if it wants to really do something about this terrible disease, it has to take the more long-term view and work toward the complete eradication of asbestos. Only then will we be able to consign mesothelioma to the history books.”