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Global Asbestos Awareness Week: Another Year, Same Danger….

This week of 01 April – 07 April 2023 is dedicated to Global Asbestos Awareness Week – seven days committed to increasing awareness of the dangers of asbestos exposure and how countries such as the UK can unite to put an end to exposure from this deadly substance.

Can Asbestos Exposure affect me?

By the 1960s, it was common knowledge that exposure to asbestos, even in small amounts, could cause the contraction of mesothelioma – in fact, it was front page news of the Sunday Times in October 1965.

Despite moving ever further from the UK’s (eventual) ban on asbestos importation, supply and use in 1999; the number of people who die from asbestos-related illnesses is still 5,000 people a year. To put this into context, Cancer Research UK estimate that mortality rates related to mesothelioma, a fatal cancer caused exclusively from exposure to asbestos fibres, have increased by 887% since the early 1970s.

On a global scale, the World Health Organisation recognises around 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace – with approximately half of the deaths from occupational cancer estimated to be caused by asbestos.

Whether we look far away, or closer to home; the story is always the same – exposure to asbestos is life-limiting, and in most cases, fatal. HSE’s recent campaign, Asbestos and You, is too pushing the message that the risks associated with asbestos must be taken much more seriously going forward.

This week serves as a reminder to continue fighting the battle against Asbestos.

How can I be exposed to Asbestos?

Aside from the obvious trades such as asbestos laggers, asbestos factory workers or shipping stevedores, any person who worked or does work in the following occupations, could be at risk of exposure to asbestos:

  • Carpenters/joiners
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Painters/decorators
  • Plasterers
  • Construction workers
  • Maintenance staff, such as caretakers
  • Engineers

However, the above list is not exhaustive – statistics are showing a growing number of asbestos-related disease sufferers from jobs such as teaching staff, nurses, doctors and office workers.

Identifying Asbestos products

Within the UK, asbestos can be present in any building built before the year 2000. Unfortunately, it did not miraculously disappear following its ban. Therefore, any work or contact with asbestos must either be prevented (left in situ with no disturbance) or its removal must be carried out by a licensed and registered contractor.

For example, asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) can be found in the following residential or industrial locations according to HSE:

  • Asbestos pipe lagging
  • Asbestos insulation board ceiling tiles
  • Asbestos cement gutters and downpipes/panels/roofs
  • AIB or asbestos cement soffits
  • Asbestos sprayed coatings
  • Asbestos rope seals, gaskets and paper
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Textiles, such as Asbestos fire blankets
  • Textured decorative coating on walls and ceilings, such as Artex

Asbestos in Talc and Make-up

The terrible reach and devastation of exposure to asbestos fibres does not stop at workplace exposure: asbestos can be found in the day-to-day beauty products we all use, talcum body powder and powdered make-up products containing talc.

Products containing talc can be identified by looking on the back of products, where their ingredients are listed. It could be recorded under the name of ‘talc’ or ‘magnesium silicate’. How did asbestos get in there? Asbestos and talc have been, and in some countries continue to be, mined alongside one another; therefore, some talc was, and may still be, contaminated with asbestos fibres.

A common favourite amongst consumers, Johnson’s Baby Powder is well-known for using asbestos-contaminated talc – something they have always denied, despite stopping their selling of Baby Powder in the USA and Canada. Johnson & Johnson also intend to phase out sales worldwide this year, according to the Financial Times…why lose all that product and profit if they have done nothing wrong? The US Appeals Court recently dismissed Johnson & Johnson’s bankruptcy petition in January 2023, a welcome ruling for victims.

As with avoiding asbestos-containing materials generally, the safest solution in terms of talcum powder and make-up is to discard any products you currently have containing talc and to avoid buying products in the future that do. It is safer to use alternatives such as corn-starch; or buy from labels such as Lush, who confirm the talc in their products is asbestos-free.

Importance of awareness

As the saying goes, knowledge is power and to learn from our past mistakes with asbestos is to allow for a brighter future where treatments continue to develop, exposure is lessened and we all work together to save lives.

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization during Global Asbestos Awareness Week is adamant that prevention remains the only concrete cure; and this remains at the forefront of Hodge Jones & Allen’s spirit to Fight for What’s Right.

In celebrating Global Asbestos Awareness Week, for those who are sadly suffering the devastating effects of exposure to this toxic material, our specialist Asbestos team can obtain justice, compensation and treatment funding for those illnesses caused by asbestos exposure; all of which are entirely preventable.

We continue working towards the day when asbestos-related deaths become a thing of the past; not an enduring part of our future.

“Asbestos: One word. One Week. One World” #2023GAAW

If you have been affected by asbestos exposure and require legal advice in relation to seeking compensation, please contact our Asbestos & Mesothelioma Compensation Team on 0330 822 3451 for confidential and expert advice. They treat every client as an individual and strive to take away the worry of a legal claim. 

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