The Mesothelioma Bill passed its final parliamentary stage before Christmas and will become law once it receives royal assent.
While this is welcome for those who have developed asbestos-related mesothelioma, the fight to help those yet to develop this disease and ensure numbers of future victims are kept as low as possible by reducing the risk of asbestos exposure goes on.
The bill will provide around 300 victims average payouts of £100,000 while enabling those unable to trace the responsible employer or insurer to receive compensation through a scheme funded by a levy on current insurers. I would argue that this scheme does not go far enough in compensating victims, or in providing for those victims who are still to come. Tragic stories abound of people who have been forced to travel overseas for treatment, because scant research has been done to support effective care and medical treatment here in the UK.
Readers should care, as you may be a future victim and blissfully unaware of it. Mesothelioma’s latent period can last between 10 and 40 years and asbestos remains the biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Therefore, the question is not if we will see more cases, but how many and what we are going to do about what could be just the tip of an asbestos iceberg.
Up to 2010, asbestos deaths for England and Wales stood at 4,132. The fear is numbers could increase over the next decade to 7,500 deaths per year, moving asbestos into fourth place in the league of the nation’s killers, with only heart disease and cancer coming higher.
I urge everyone to be aware of the risks, as with asbestos present in many of our schools and public buildings, this is not an issue we (or indeed the government) can afford to take for granted.
David Nichol, managing director, Nichol Associates, Hebburn, Tyne and Wear