MPs launch inquiry as data on mesothelioma deaths is released

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New annual figures from the Health and Safety Executive have revealed that deaths from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma have increased in Great Britain year-on-year over the last 50 years.

According to the latest government report Mesothelioma Mortality in Great Britain: 1968-2019, 1,945 men and 424 women died from mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs or abdomen in 2019.

The figures show there have been nearly 10 times as many mesothelioma deaths in the most recent decade (2010-19) than 1970-79.

In 2019 in total, there were 2,369 mesothelioma deaths (7% lower than the annual average number of 2540 over the period 2012-2018). This would seem to suggest deaths have peaked and reflect the long-expected downward trend in mesothelioma deaths.

MPs have now launched an inquiry into how asbestos is being managed across the UK amid the serious risks posed to health.

The Work and Pensions Committee, which has launched the inquiry, says that despite the importation, supply and use of asbestos being banned in the UK since 1999, asbestos exposure remains the most significant single cause of work-related fatalities.

Every year in Great Britain, there are more than 5,000 deaths caused by asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

Specialist asbestos disease solicitor Andrew Stinchcombe, with his team, has represented thousands of people whose lives have been significantly impacted by asbestos disease. He says:

“These shocking figures come as no surprise to my team or me because we deal with the devastating and deadly effect of Britain’s asbestos legacy every day. The latest HSE figures are a stark reminder that asbestos still presents a clear danger to public health. Its impact will, tragically, continue to cut short the lives of thousands of people in our country.

“It is essential that those who receive the devastating news that they have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease have access to justice in the form of compensation to ensure they can access specialist treatment and care and have peace of mind that their family are taken care of. We all need to do what we can to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos and campaign for its safe removal from public buildings, like hospitals, schools, libraries, and office blocks.”

Traditionally, higher levels of asbestos-related disease were associated with work in industrial sites such as shipyards and factories, but in recent years this has also expanded into other industry sectors, including construction.

However, it is people working in public buildings where asbestos is poorly maintained, including some schools and hospitals, that is a growing concern for industry experts and campaigners, who want to see immediate action from the Government to tackle the issue.

Regional mesothelioma deaths

The top five areas where the most men have died from mesothelioma between 1981 to 2019 are:

  1. Barrow-in-Furness – 289 deaths
  2. West Dunbartonshire – also 289 deaths
  3. North Tyneside – 547 deaths
  4. South Tyneside – 414 deaths
  5. Portsmouth – 443 deaths
  6. Plymouth – 592 deaths
  7. Southampton – 457 deaths

The local authority areas are ranked using SMRs (Standard Mortality Ratios), which compare actual mesothelioma deaths to how many were usually expected to die in the area.

The top three areas with the most female mesothelioma deaths are:

  1. Barking and Dagenham – 87 deaths
  2. Sunderland – 156 deaths
  3. Newham (East London) – 75 deaths
  4. West Dunbartonshire – 39 deaths
  5. Barrow-in-Furness – 30 deaths

Andrew Stinchcombe adds:

“The figures broken down by region remain essentially unchanged compared with last year. They show that it is those areas associated with heavier, traditional industries, like shipbuilding and manufacturing, that continue to pay the heaviest price. Regions such as Northern England and Scotland are particularly hard hit, but mesothelioma is also a severe issue in the South of England, including Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Southampton, as well as Wales.

“With the damage from exposure to asbestos taking many decades to reveal itself due to its long latency of up to 40 years before mesothelioma is detectable, it’s vital people are given an early diagnosis to give them the best opportunity to benefit from treatment and ground-breaking therapies to improve their daily quality of life.”

Speaking to the press, Liz Darlison MBE and CEO of the leading charity Mesothelioma UK, said that poor asbestos management led to “public health disaster number one” and that “our country is riddled with the stuff, and we have to address this if we want to protect future generations.” She added:

“We need a long-term, government-led initiative to remove asbestos, even if it takes several generations.”

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or another asbestos-related disease, Novum Law’s specialist asbestos disease solicitors can provide expert legal advice on making a compensation claim. Call us on 0800 884 0777 or email

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