Action Mesothelioma Day 2017

Action Mesothelioma Day 2017

18th July 2017

Last week on July 7th it was Action Mesothelioma Day 2017, a day designated to raise awareness of the disease and raise funds for vital research.  Mesothelioma is a cancer that mostly affects the lungs and it’s caused by inhaling asbestos fibres.  At present there is no cure for this disease which claims the lives of an average of 2.500 a year here in the UK (which is the country worst affected by mesothelioma) and many more around the world.  Despite the fact that asbestos use has been banned here in the UK since the 1990 and new builds since that date don’t contain the deadly substance, its use before the ban was so ubiquitous that it will continue to present us with problems for many years to come.  In fact, 20 tradespeople die each week as a result of mesothelioma and over the next 30 years, experts predict that another 600,000 deaths will occur from this deadly disease. 

Here in Britain asbestos was traditionally used because it is cheap and flexible and has excellent insulating properties, causing it to be used throughout homes, workplaces and schools in all regions.  Workers who handled and installed the asbestos would be exposed to the fibres as the asbestos sheets were broken or cut, leading to the fibres being released into the air for those working in the area to breathe in.  Once they enter the lungs, asbestos fibres hook into the lining of the membranes and take root.  The main groups of people affected by mesothelioma include those involved in the asbestos mining process, those producing asbestos products and those installing asbestos containing materials (ACMs).  Asbestos use increased during World War 2 and began to risk the lives of those in other occupations, including ship workers, railway workers, joiners, electricians and plumbers.

While the majority of those affected in years gone by were males who were exposed to asbestos while working, there have been cases of females contracting mesothelioma due to a secondary exposure taking place when workers would return home with work clothes that would be laundered by their wives.  As the women handled the contaminated work clothes, the asbestos fibres would once more be disturbed and become airborne, entering the lungs of those doing the laundry.  The symptoms of mesothelioma can take up to 30 – 40 years to become apparent which is one of the reasons that experts predict more asbestos related deaths in the future.

When asbestos use was finally banned in the UK in the 1990s, the Control of Asbestos Regulations were introduced to ensure that those who may be exposed to asbestos are protected.  When remodelling or refurbishing work is planned on older buildings, an asbestos survey must be carried out before work begins.  If asbestos or ACMs are found either before or during the work, specially trained personnel must be brought in to handle, remove and dispose of it.