Asbestos death toll is still rising

Deaths from asbestos-related diseases have increased by two-thirds in the
past decade

At least 5,000 people died last year from asbestos-related diseases,
according to an analysis of figures from the Health and Safety Executive.

The analysis by the TUC of the HSE’s Health and Safety Statistics 2001 has
found 1,705 people were projected to have died from mesothelioma, which is
caused by exposure to asbestos, during 2001 and 5,115 from asbestos-related

The statistics are based on death certificates issued in England, Scotland
and Wales and show the death toll has risen from 3,000 a decade ago.

According to the TUC, 50 per cent more people now die from asbestos than die
on the roads every year.

Its findings come as the HSE has itself warned that white asbestos
(chrysolite) is a major health hazard, and that some 4,000 lives could be lost
in future years unless steps are taken to manage the risks from asbestos
present in commercial buildings.

A number of press articles have suggested white asbestos is harmless but,
while conceding it is less harmful than brown or blue asbestos, the HSE warned
it still carried a risk.

John Thompson of the HSE said: "The scientific evidence does not
provide us with an easy answer to the question of just how dangerous chrysolite
– white asbestos – really is. Our belief, based on the best available
scientific evidence, is that the risk is real, and we must act

The Health and Safety Commission is due to put forward legislation to introduce
a new duty that will seek to deal with the risks of asbestos in buildings.

The TUC is launching a new guide, Asbestos: no hiding place, for workplace
safety representatives on how to prevent exposure to asbestos. Advice is also
available within the HSE’s leaflet, Managing asbestos in premises.

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