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Deadly Dust Victims
Government plans to relax rules that require employers to keep Employers Liability Insurance records for up to 40 years could be very bad news indeed for former employees whose work-related illness didn't manifest until many decades later such as mesothelioma and Vibration White Finger.
Victims need access to Employers Liability Insurance records of the time in order to pursue a claim. A number of MP's are calling for the setting up of a central database for the compulsory recording of all Employers Liability Insurance policies in the hopes of speeding claims up, especially if the company is no longer operating.
Mesothelioma remains a relatively rare form of cancer however numbers are set to increase as more people who came into contact with asbestos through their work start to show symptoms, up to 50 years after exposure. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral with heat and fire resistant qualities used in a wide range of industries. Mesothelioma is caused when fine asbestos fibres or dust is inhaled or ingested whilst working with it. These tiny particles lodge in the body and eventually the body's defence mechanism tries to break them down leading to swelling and inflammation in the lining of the lung or abdomen. This causes severe shortness of breath and pain in the chest or abdomen. It responds poorly to treatment and most patients die within three years.
The heat and fire resistant qualities of asbestos made it a popular material in the shipbuilding and construction industry after the Second World War. For this reason nearly four times as many men as women are diagnosed with the disease. Asbestos cement was used for roofing and wall-cladding, ducts and soffits were sprayed with asbestos for fire protection, it was packed into ceiling voids as a firebreak and asbestos paper insulated electrical equipment. It turned up as thermal lagging for pipes and boilers and in cars for brake linings. Construction workers, ship builders, motor and railway workers, plumbers, gas fitters, carpenters, electricians, plasterers, handymen, painters and welders all came into contact with it. Even family members could contract it by breathing in the asbestos fibres or dust on clothing, hair or skin of workers when they came home.
Many victims had no idea that they were coming into contact with asbestos at the time. Steve McQueen was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1979 he subsequently died the following year aged 50. Its believed he may have been exposed to asbestos while serving in the Marines when he was 17, asbestos was often used to insulate ships piping, or possibly through his passion for motor racing, asbestos was used in racing suits.
The link between asbestos and lung disease was reported in medical literature back in the 1870's, but the link between exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma wasn't firmly made until 1960. It's most commonly associated with blue and brown asbestos, banned in the UK in 1985. So in time the number of cases will hopefully drop. However due to the heavy use of asbestos from the post-war period to the mid 1970's a sharp rise in cases is expected over the next 20 years.
Nearly 90% of mesothelioma cases are diagnosed in people who have had significant exposure to asbestos at some point in their working life. Men like 60 year old Eric Fairchild, who was exposed to large amounts of asbestos when working for Leeds City Council in the early sixties and then again a few years later when working on another building in the city, he died nearly 30 years after breathing in the deadly dust.
The current proposals to remove the very means by which former employees and their families can trace their employers original insurers in order to pursue a claim is of great concern. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, as well as Asbestos and Mesothelioma Support Groups believe it will have a major impact on the considerable number of future victims of this terrible industrial disease.
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