Impact of deadly asbestos-related cancer in Aberdeenshire revealed

Asbestos-related cancer has claimed the lives of more than 100 people in Aberdeenshire over almost four decades.

Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 3:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 3:54 pm

MPs have launched an inquiry into how the material is being managed across the UK after serious safety concerns were raised.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a type of cancer which affects the lining of some organs, including the lungs.

Health and Safety Executive data shows the disease was responsible for 146 deaths in Aberdeenshire between 1981 and 2019 – the latest available figures.

Of those, 36 occurred between 2015 and 2019 – one fewer than in 2010-14.

The Work and Pensions Committee, which launched the inquiry, said that despite the importation, supply and use of asbestos being banned in the UK since 1999, it remains the largest single cause of work-related fatalities.

The inquiry will examine the risks posed by asbestos in the workplace, the actions taken by the HSE to mitigate them and how its approach compares to those taken in other countries.

Though traditionally, higher levels of asbestos-related illness were associated with work in industrial sites such as shipyards, in recent years that also expanded to other industries, including construction.

But campaigners say people using buildings where asbestos is poorly maintained, including some schools and hospitals, are also at risk of contracting the deadly disease and want to see action from the Government.

Liz Darlison, CEO of charity Mesothelioma UK, said she was shocked at the figures, which show that 12,500 people died of mesothelioma in Great Britain in 2015-19 – the highest number for any previous five-year period.

Dawn McKinley, chair of the UK Mesothelioma Alliance, is calling for action to protect children and staff coming into contact with asbestos in schools.

She said: "Our politicians, duty holders and decision makers must come together and use their powers to protect our children from the real dangers they face from exposure to asbestos in our schools."

The HSE is expecting the incidence of mesothelioma to decline in the coming years. A spokesman added that it will be working with MPs throughout the inquiry.