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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 12:53 GMT
'A silent dust death sentence'
Lung x-ray
Mesothelioma is a malignant tumour of the lung lining
With research showing that the UK is facing "an epidemic" of mesothelioma, campaigners have revealed an increase in younger victims.

Joan Baird, whose husband William died from mesothelioma seven years ago, said it is an "horrific condition".

Mrs Baird has become a campaigner for the Clydebank Asbestos Group following the death of her husband.

The town has the highest death rate from asbestos poisoning in the UK, mostly due to its shipbuilding past.

The Clydeside area also had two asbestos factories.

Mrs Baird told BBC Radio Scotland: "It is a horrific disease, I'd describe it as the silent dust death sentence.

"It is a very painful disease and to watch anyone suffering with this takes the heart right out of you.

At the moment there are three or four new cases a week
Joan Baird
"I was lucky that my husband was in his 70s [when he died] but what I am seeing now is younger people dying from this horrendous disease and that is very hurtful."

She added: "Seven years ago we were told that numbers were going to peak in 2005, now they are saying 2020.

"At the moment there are three or four new cases a week diagnosed with mesothelioma but it can take anything from 20 to 50 years to develop so that number could easily rise."

Clydebank Asbestos Group is actively campaigning to make the public more aware of the dangers of asbestos and the heath problems it can cause.

Mesothelioma is a malignant tumour of the lung lining primarily caused by exposure to asbestos.

The disease is fatal and the life expectancy of those who develop it is usually from six to 18 months.

The link between the inhalation of asbestos fibres and mesothelioma has been well established in medical circles and it only takes a single fibre of the substance to cause the disease.

However, asbestos can lie dormant in the body for many years before it causes any problems.

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