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July 1, 2011

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Victim support groups warn of “asbestos protection crisis”

Today (1 July) is Action Mesothelioma Day and hundreds of sufferers of the disease, and their supporters, are planning events throughout the UK to warn of the ongoing danger of asbestos.
The Manchester-based Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum UK claims the situation is reaching crisis proportions because of the Government’s policy to reduce asbestos protection.
As evidence it cites the halting of the HSE’s ‘Hidden Killer’ campaign, the failure to audit the extent, type and condition of asbestos in schools, and the lack of asbestos safeguards for tenants in social housing.
Tony Whitston, chair of the Forum, said: “Low-level exposures to asbestos can cause mesothelioma. Government policy is putting maintenance workers tenants and school staff and children at risk. It is unforgiveable for government to repeat the policy mistakes of the past, which have caused so many deaths. The ‘Hidden Killer’ campaign should be reinstated and action taken urgently to protect tenants, school staff and children.”
According to the Forum, there were 2400 cases of mesothelioma – a fatal cancer of the lung pleura whose only known cause is exposure to asbestos – diagnosed in 2008, and 2249 deaths. It also says the rate of female death from the disease is rising exponentially and is more than three times higher in the UK than in the US.
A report published by construction union UCATT in 2009 revealed that asbestos is estimated to be present in 90 per cent of all public-sector housing. Consequently, the union is calling for application of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006 to be extended to domestic properties.
Events being held today include a release of doves in Liverpool and in Manchester in memory of those who have lost their lives to mesothelioma, a meet-the-experts event in Leeds, organised by the June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund, and a special service in Leicester’s St. Martin’s Cathedral.
A comprehensive list of events is available on the British Lung Foundation’s website.

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