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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 01:39 GMT 02:39 UK
Asbestos diseases 'killing more workers'
Asbestos removal
Inhaling asbestos can be deadly
The number of work-related deaths caused by asbestos is increasing, according to a report by the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

This is despite a ban on new uses of the fibre in the workplace.

The TUC says 4,000 people die of asbestos-related diseases every year - more than are killed on the roads.

In 20 years' time it will become the largest single cause of male mortality under the age of 65, it predicted.



Asbestos has already been responsible for the deaths of many workers and it is going to go on killing people for many years to come

John Monks, TUC general secretary

A new guide on what to do if asbestos is discovered in a workplace was sent to union health and safety representatives by the TUC on Tuesday.

Employers were urged to draw up a plan for dealing with asbestos and to train workers on how to deal with the fibre.

TUC general secretary John Monks said: "Asbestos has already been responsible for the deaths of many workers and it is going to go on killing people for many years to come.

"Despite the ban, there are still millions of tonnes of the fatal fibre lurking in walls and ceilings, pipes, boilers and brake laggings."

Joiner's ill health

The TUC highlighted the case of Jack Blakey who is suffering from asbestosis, having contracted the disease when he worked as a joiner with Rotherham Council in South Yorkshire.

In 1972 he was working as part of a team whose job it was to go around council properties removing the asbestos facing panels from around gas fires.

Mr Blakey then fitted new panels, by drilling holes in them - these also contained at least 15% white asbestos.

The job lasted for six months and at no time was he told of the dangers of the material he was working with, says the report.

In January 1997 Mr Blakey was diagnosed with asbestosis. He was 56 and has not worked since.

The building workers' union, UCATT took up his case against his former employer and won just under 15,000 in compensation.

Asbestos diseases are caused by inhaling asbestos dust, a mineral commonly used in the construction industry until the 1970s.

Diseases

The main diseases caused by asbestos inhalation are:

  • asbestosis - the scarring of lung tissue
  • lung cancer
  • mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the chest and lungs)
  • pleural diseases, which include fluid on the lungs

Over 3,000 people a year die of the disease in the UK and numbers are predicted to rise to 10,000 a year by 2020.

Those infected are mainly builders, plumbers and shipyard workers, but teachers, children and nurses are believed to have been put at risk since asbestos was used in the construction of several schools and hospitals.

Families of those who work with asbestos can also be infected if asbestos particles are brought into the home on clothes. It can take up to 40 years for symptoms to show.

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See also:

18 Aug 98 | Latest News
UK set to ban 'killer dust'
21 Mar 00 | A-B
Asbestos disease
18 Jan 99 | Health
Asbestos will 'kill 250,000'
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