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18 January 2019
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Mesothelioma deaths not to peak until 2016

28 October 2009

The number of people dying from the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma has hit record levels and is not expected to peak until 2016, according to research from the Health and Safety Executive.

Mesothelioma is a virulent form of cancer that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. The disease is usually fatal.

In 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, 2,156 death certificates cited mesothelioma as cause of death. This was up from 2,058 in 2006 and 2,046 the year before that.

HSE researchers have forecast an increase in the number of men suffering from mesothelioma year-on-year until 2016. The figures project a rise from 1,812 cases of mesothelioma among males this year to 2,016.

Projections are exclusively for mesothelioma cases among men because a decision was taken to divide the research project in two by sex. Estimates for female deaths will be published in due course. The ratio of male to female deaths in 2007 was around five-to-one.

A spokesperson for the HSE insisted that asbestos was not just a legacy problem. “Asbestos exposure is very much a present danger. A complete ban on asbestos was not introduced until 2000 and there are still 500,000 non-domestic premises in the country with asbestos. It is Britain’s biggest industrial killer.”

He added that asbestos awareness was a crucial issue not just for tradesmen, but for facilities managers too. “As well as education tradesmen who might be exposed to asbestos we need to educate the dutyholders who are responsible.”

The HSE would not hesitate to prosecute facilities managers who failed to live up to their legal responsibilities, he warned.