Learning the lessons of asbestos as death toll continues to rise

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date: 10 October 2012

embargo: for immediate release

There are almost 2,500 new cases of mesothelioma in the UK each year. This number is expected to rise by 100-120 a year until at least 2015. An estimated 250-300 of these new cases each year will be in the Northern region.

For decades asbestos products were used extensively throughout industry and as building materials. Today, asbestos is the single biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and very much a trade union issue. It is predicted that the number of people who die from mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, will continue to increase for the next 5 to 10 years.

Having already formed the successful Northern TUC Asbestos Support and Campaign Group to help sufferers of all asbestos-related diseases and campaigned for pleural plaques compensation the Northern TUC, teaching unions NASUWT,NUT and ATL, along with GMB and Unison are now awareness raising about the very real dangers of asbestos in schools with the launch of a new information pamphlet, 'Asbestos in Schools: What teachers, support staff, governors and heads need to know about the hidden killer within our schools'.

All schools built before 2000 are also highly likely to contain asbestos containing materials (ACM); it was used extensively in construction materials, insulation and fire prevention; over 75% of schools contain asbestos. As these building age and fall into disrepair the risk of asbestos exposure increases dramatically. The number of teachers who have dies from mesothelioma has increased by over 300% in the last twenty years. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Children exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to develop mesothelioma than adult teachers in the same environment. A child of five is five times more likely to develop mesothelioma by the age of 80 than a teacher aged 30.

Micky Blench, Chair of the Northern TUC Asbestos Support and Campaign Group said: 'It is really important that we keep the spotlight on asbestos issues as it is too easily dismissed as an industrial disease and consigned to the past. Unfortunately, it is still very much in the present - and worse still, the future. Whilst we can't prevent the damage that has already been done, we can take proactive steps to minimise risks - one of which is to arm people with facts, information and practical measures to help protect themselves and others. Hopefully our new information pamphlet will go some way to doing just that, and keeping our schools the safe places they should be.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- Copy of new info leaflet attached and will be available on the Northern TUC website and hard copy upon request.

- Northern TUC Asbestos Support and Campaign Group was launched in 2010. To speak to a Support Worker call 0191 2007198

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Kevin Rowan M: 07766250074 E: [email protected]
Neil Foster T: 0191 227 5554 M: 07717 531150 E: [email protected]

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