Update: Lifetime’s work with asbestos honoured

A leading OH researcher in the study of asbestos has received the IOSH Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by health and safety consultancy Sypol.

Professor Julian Peto, Cancer Research UK professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Institute of Cancer Research, received the honour for his research, which revealed the scale of the mesothelioma epidemic in the UK among construction and other workers.

Peto developed and tested the first detailed dose, time and age models for lung cancer and mesothelioma due to asbestos, and his risk assessment models were adopted in government agency reports worldwide, leading to stringent regulation of asbestos in the workplace.

Karen Baxter, managing director at Sypol, said: “This award is for Julian’s research into the health effects of inhaling asbestos fibres, which led to the creation of risk standards that are still used today. His current work includes research which has helped our understanding of the genetics of breast cancer and the impact of screening for cervical cancer. There can be no doubt that his work has helped to prevent the deaths of many workers from mesothelioma.”

Peto said: “Any scientist who achieves anything stands on the shoulders of giants. Sir Richard Doll showed that asbestos causes cancer 50 years ago, and it is just over 30 years since I first worked with him. I’m obviously honoured and delighted to have received this prestigious award.”

Peto intends to continue researching asbestos. One of his current projects is a national case-control study of mesothelioma patients born since 1940 to identify the occupations and work practices that involve the highest risks of contracting the disease. “The primary aim of this HSE-funded study is to determine whether the risks among the younger mesothelioma patients provide evidence of continuing occupational asbestos exposure, particularly in the construction industry,” he said.

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