It’s been revealed that a Gloucestershire man recently died as a result of contracting malignant mesothelioma, a fatal cancer that is usually caused by exposure to asbestos fibres. As we explained in one of our blog posts back in December, mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that is fatal and the average survival rate following diagnosis is only about 9 months.
The unfortunate man, Gordon Bennett, worked at Fibrecrete in the picturesque village of Chalford Hill from 1958 to 1962. It was nearly fifty years after this that Mr. Bennett started to feel breathless and went for tests. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died at home in October of last year. Following four years in the Merchant Navy and two years’ National Service, Mr. Bennett spent four years working as a labourer at Fibrecrete, a company which produced asbestos drainpipes, gutters, sheeting and other products.
His work involved unloading asbestos sheets from the machinery while they were still warm. The air in the factory was often dense with clouds of white asbestos dust and workers were in the habit of sitting on piles of asbestos sheeting while they ate their packed lunches. Mr. Bennett also had the task of sweeping up the dust at the end of each working day. He wore no protective gear other than ordinary work overalls – no mask or respiratory device and he usually went home covered in the dust.
A post mortem revealed that Mr. Bennett died from bronchopneumonia caused by the malignant mesothelioma and lung tissue samples were discovered to contain 8,751 mineral fibres consistent with asbestos exposure.
Although asbestos was totally banned in the UK in 1999 we are still seeing many cases of asbestos related diseases and it’s expected that there are many more to come. Asbestos is still a very real danger here in the UK due to the copious amounts of the substance used in the construction industry over a period of more than 150 years. This means that there is still asbestos in many of our buildings that were constructed before the year 2000. This is despite the fact that the first documented asbestos related death occurred in 1906 and the first UK diagnosis of asbestosis was made in 1924.
Researchers in the early 1900s were noticing a large number of early deaths and a proliferation of lung problems in asbestos mining towns. In fact, Pliny the Younger described slaves working with mineral asbestos suffering illnesses as far back as 61 – 114 AD!
The sheer amount of asbestos in buildings here in the UK means that we will need to be vigilant for many years to come – tracking down and identifying asbestos in our homes, public buildings and work places. Then there is the job of determining whether or not the asbestos is safe (whether or not it is deteriorating and releasing fibres) and removing asbestos and ACMs where applicable. The safest way of dealing with asbestos of any kind is to call in professionals who are properly trained in identifying, evaluating and removing this lethal substance.