The Human Face of Mesothelioma
Asbestos is one of the biggest killers of the last 120 years and despite it being 20 years since the use of Asbestos was banned in the UK, the death toll continues as countries such as Russia, and South Africa lead the world in the mining and export of Asbestos; a product that inevitably kills people.
Special Report by web editor, Chris Ingram
In the UK, it is estimated by the HSE, that asbestos is the greatest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK, with past exposure causing around 5,000 deaths a year including 2,595 mesothelioma deaths in 2016, together with estimated thousands of other asbestos-related deaths.
Four main diseases are associated with the inhalation of asbestos fibres: asbestosis, mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and diffuse pleural thickening. Mesothelioma is a rare and incurable form of cancer, caused almost exclusively through the inhalation and retention of Asbestos fibres.
Action Mesothelioma Day, brings together patients, carers, families and local dignitaries in Britain for services of remembrance and hope, commemorating the thousands of lives lost to Mesothelioma. The day is organised by Mesothelioma UK.
Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause both lung cancer and another fatal cancer of the lining of the lung called mesothelioma. Even low levels of exposure can cause mesothelioma and every year over 4,000 people die as a result of past exposure to asbestos. The disease is invariably fatal with most victims dying within 18 months of diagnosis. It often does not appear until around 40 years after the person first breathes in the dust.
In the USA, asbestos can be legally found (max limit of 1%) in children's toys and make up as previously reported by Unionsafety last year following media investigation into the use of Asbestos in children's make-up and sold in the UK.
With Asbestos being present in the majority of schools across the UK and teachers dieing of Mesothelioma, urgent government action is required to recover every piece of asbestos in schools and public buildings.
In 2012 a report issued by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety investigated the level of Asbestos in schools and the number of schools containing Asbestos in classrooms, pipe lagging, notice boards and walls. The report stated:
"More than 75 per cent of Britain’s state schools contain asbestos. Much of that is badly maintained, meaning that children and staff are exposed to this killer fibre. Over 140 school teachers have died from mesothelioma in the past ten years. An unknown number of cleaners, admin staff and caretakers have also died. The number of children who have died as a result of exposure to asbestos while at school is unknown but in the US it was estimated that for every teacher’s death nine children will die. That would mean that over 100 people die every year in the UK as a result of exposure when they were at school."
"A report commissioned by the Medical Research Council (MRC) examined the extent, type and location of asbestos in schools and concluded that “It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that the entire school population has been exposed to asbestos in school buildings.” Of the 33,600 schools in Britain, more than 75 per cent contain asbestos. Fourteen thousand schools were built after the second world war and almost all those built before 1975 contain asbestos. Most of the other schools were refurbished during this period and also contain asbestos. The materials of greatest concern are those that readily release asbestos fibres such as asbestos lagging, sprayed asbestos and asbestos insulating board (AIB), all of which are present in schools. It is not only found in lagging in pipes and boiler rooms, it was also sprayed on ceilings and structural beams or used extensively in the construction of schools in walls, ceilings, heating baffles, window and door surrounds, with much of it in locations that are vulnerable to damage by the children."
The myth that as long as the Asbestos is not disturbed, it is perfectly safe was blown wide open by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety report findings:
"Asbestos management concentrates on preventing maintenance work disturbing the asbestos; however, tests have shown that common everyday classroom activities can also release dangerous levels of asbestos fibres. It was discovered in 1987 that slamming a door just five times released levels of amosite fibres more than six hundred times greater than background levels, despite the fact that the AIB panels around the door appeared to be in good condition. As no warning was issued to the thousands of other schools with potentially the same problem, the release of asbestos fibres continued. Twenty years later, in 2006, the problem was re-identified. When the doors were slammed and walls and columns were hit in system-built schools the asbestos fibres ejected into the classrooms were at levels eight hundred times greater than background levels. Other tests have shown that removing books from a classroom stationary cupboard with an AIB back releases levels one hundred times greater than background levels, as does displaying the children’s work with drawing pins or staples, a practice that was common in schools. In some schools these releases of asbestos fibres have occurred every day over the course of many years so that the cumulative exposures of staff and pupils are considerable. The result is that the occupants of schools are dying from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma."
So, just what is the death toll from exposure to Asbestos?
"Britain has the highest mesothelioma incidence in the world, at more than twice that of France, Germany or the USA. An HSE report concluded that is because of the quantity and types of asbestos that Britain imported, but all types of asbestos can cause mesothelioma. The incidence of mesothelioma in the USA has stabilised at about 14 per million per annum since 1999 whereas in Britain it has increased year on year and is presently 37.8 per million per annum."
The full report these facts come from can be downloaded from the Unionsafety E-Library, along with other Asbestos health and safety reports. Select the search category of 'Asbestos (in schools)'.
But don't look to the Health & Safety Executive for support on removing it!
They falsely claim, as do the Department of Education's Asbestos Policy, along with other unnamed experts that ''....provided asbestos containing materials (ACMs) remain undamaged it is safest to manage them in situ. They consider this safer than removing ACMs because removal greatly increases the risk that asbestos fibres are released in to the air and of small quantities of damaged asbestos remaining after removal."
Given that encapsulating barriers and water is used to absolutely soak the Asbestos to be removed in order to stop fibres from escaping into the atmosphere, professional removal companies can eliminate the sources of asbestos quite effectively and entirely.
The issue is merely one of cost and hence the HSE being coerced or otherwise into supporting the false policy of leaving it where it is and hope for the best it doesn't get damaged!
Merseyside's Action Mesothelioma Day 2019 was held in Liverpool last Friday (5th July) and organised by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups of Merseyside and Cheshire with the support of local Mayors and other dignitaries, and included School children releasing Doves from the square behind the Town Hall.
During the event held at The Racquets Club Hotel, Marj Magee, Secretary of the Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group told Unionsafety:
With Asbestos related diseases such as Mesothelioma, we don't have the urgency factor that we would otherwise have because of the period in time that it takes to kill people after exposure to Asbestos!"
This lack of urgency allows our schools, telephone exchanges, public libraries, museums, railway stations, and other public buildings to still contain Asbestos banned in 1999; to remain in-situ. The attitude is that it poses no threat as long as it is not disturbed or remains painted over - a false assertion!
It was therefore fitting for the event organisers to have invited pupils from New Brighton Primary School to release Doves in commemoration those who have passed away after their struggle with this terrible and cruel disease of Mesothelioma.
The event organised by Asbestos Victims Support Groups of Merseyside and Cheshire was designed specifically to provide support and information, with access to clinical and legal experts on a one to one basis and with family and friends who wished to get more information in order to support their loved ones suffering from this terrible disease. A superb buffet and tea, coffee, and fruit was also provided for all those attending.
Six different law firms who provide expert lawyers on Asbestos related diseases; Leigh Day, Thompsons, Slater & Gordon, James Murray Solicitors, Irwin Mitchell and Fieldfisher law firm, had their stalls which provided a wealth of leaflets and promotional material including a cuddly toy and re-usable coffee mugs were at the back of the main room, with a separate room where the experts were seated available for chats, to give advice and support to those needing it.
On the Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group stall, attendees were able to dedicate and hang paper Doves on a tree of light to their loved ones who had fallen victim to the Asbestos related diseases.
Following the release of the Doves and a group photograph of those at Exchange Flags, everyone returned to the Hotel for the opportunity to partake of the buffet and then to visit the clinical and legal experts.
Presentations by Mesothelioma UK and two very brave victims of Mesothelioma who spoke of their experiences from being diagnosed, through their treatment and how it affected not only them but their loved ones too.
The event was packed with all seats occupied and more people standing at the back of the room where the stalls and their accompanying staff were able to listen to the presentations and short speeches.
With the event beginning with the introduction of the Mayors of Merseyside and Cheshire showing their support by attending today, and a quick over view of the event a loan piper led those assembled outside of the Racquet Club Hotel on the short walk to Exchange Flags where they assembled for the release of Doves and a short commemoration speech as we stood in silence reflected and remembering those victims of Mesothelioma who have left us.
Just prior to the school children releasing the Doves, John from MAVSG introduced Aintree Hospital, cancer and lung specialist, Dr Christopher Warburton, Divisional Medical Director, and Consultant in Respiratory Medicine to say a few words.
On schedule, the doves were released by the school children, and disappeared up into the sky at speed.
Below is a short video of the release of the Doves by the children from New Brighton Primary School, and includes the short speech from Dr Christopher Warburton.
Following this, many people at the event wanted to take photos of the children due to release the Doves and the civic dignitaries, which included Mayors of Merseyside and Cheshire.
The civic dignatories pictured are:
Young Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Indea Humphries - she is a student at Broughton Hall
Liverpool Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram
Wirral Council Deputy Mayor and Mayoress Councillor George Davies and Mrs Cath Davies
Sefton Mayor Elect Councillor June Burns
Halton Mayoress, Councillor Margaret Horabin
Mayor and Consort of St Helens, Councillor Janet Johnson and Mr Anthony Johnson
Merseyside MP, Louise Elman
But also, our region's dignitaries wanted to be pictured with the school children who were after all, were MAVSG special guests in charge of the release of the Doves at today's event. At least Louis Elman didn't resort to giving them all a big kiss, as is usual with Members of Parliament whenever children are involved in photo opps!
On a more serious note, it is great to see the support provided to Merseyside and Cheshire Mesothelioma victims organisations, by political representatives from the region. Especially given they do rely on charity status in order to continue with their activities that so many people suffering from the disease desperately need.
Speaking to MAVSG at the event, Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham said:
“The continuing lack of government action on mesothelioma is nothing short of a national disgrace. There are still thousands of people dying of mesothelioma each year, as a result of exposure to asbestos in the workplace.
The two speakers at today's event, diagnosed with Mesothelioma, mentioned just how much the two organisations have given them and helped them to cope with what is a fatal disease.
But whilst the deaths from Mesothelioma, is presented as statistics and facts, just what is the human face, the human suffering, of those exposed to Asbestos, many without even knowing they had been exposed; and who now face a "death sentence" after being told they have Mesothelioma?
Well, those attending today's event heard the human stories from two very brave women who are victims of Mesothelioma.
In a silent packed room, people listened and shed a tear drop or two as Sandra Kellett and Jane Edwards presented their different experiences of the disease from the moment they were first diagnosed and the treatment they received along with how it affected their loved ones.
Sandra and Jane are but just two of the tens of thousands of people diagnosed every year in the UK, with Mesothelioma and whose experience is shared in many ways by other victims of the disease across the country.
With their permission, Unionsafety provides the full video of their stories as they told them today. Watch with a hankee ready, because these stories of anxiety, fear, and great strength and courage, may touch you and inspire you to join the thousands across the country who volunteer or donate to the organisations without whom victims of Mesothelioma and their lvoed ones would have no clinical and emotional support.
The first story of Mesothelioma is from Sandra Kellett. This is the full unedited 25 minute video.
The second story of Mesothelioma is from Jane Edwards. This is the full 20 minute unedited video.
Concluding the day:
Dr. Jeff Morgan, Chairperson of MAVSG said:
and of course asbestos in schools is a great source for parents and teachers.
An authoritative legal resource with good clear legal advice can be accessed here: www.cavsg.com/legal-resources
Source: Chris Ingram, unionsafety / MAVSG / All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety / HSE /