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       Hazards special online report, December 2015
Asbestos statistics show ‘devastating legacy’
Europe is in the midst of an asbestos disease epidemic – and it is far worse than previously thought. A new report has put deaths in the European Union caused by exposure to asbestos at three times previous estimates. And the UK tops the fatalities list.

Latest asbestos mortality figures, published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in October 2015, have confirmed that the asbestos cancer mesothelioma claims over 2,500 lives in Great Britain each year and the toll is rising.

The figures followed an Office for National Statistics (ONS) breakdown of deaths by location in England and Wales, published in August 2015, that analysed the rate of deaths from mesothelioma in local authority areas between 2010 and 2014. Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria had the highest rate at 14.3 fatalities per 100,000 people. South Tyneside (11.1), North Tyneside (10.9), Fareham (10.0) and Hartlepool (8.7) completed the top five, with Newcastle upon Tyne, Portsmouth and Southampton closely behind.

A total of 11,011 deaths where mesothelioma was found to be an underlying cause were recorded in England and Wales across the four-year period analysed, with the number of fatalities increasing every year.

“This research truly highlights the devastating impact that asbestos has had on so many lives, with more than 11,000 people passing away as a result of mesothelioma in the past four years alone,” said asbestos compensation specialist Adrian Budgen, a partner at the law firm Irwin Mitchell. He added the findings highlighted the “devastating impact” of asbestos exposures. “The suggestion that the number of people killed by this terrible cancer every year is increasing is a massive concern,” he said. “Sadly many estimates do indicate that this figure has not yet peaked and will only increase in coming years.

 “We are now seeing a growing number of people come forward seeking help regarding exposure they believe occurred in public buildings, such as hospitals and schools, where the material may have been present.”

Across Great Britain, two Scottish authorities feature in the top 20 list for mesothelioma deaths. West Dunbarton UA comes second and Inverclyde 12th.

The asbestos disease crisis is a Europe-wide phenomenon. A report published in September 2015 concluded over 47,000 people in the European Union are dying of asbestos related conditions each year with the UK topping the fatalities list. ‘Eliminating occupational cancer in Europe’, published by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), puts deaths caused by exposure to asbestos at three times previous estimates.

An international review published in 2014 concluded the “mesothelioma epidemic does not show signs of attenuation. The lack of data for a large majority of the world does not allow that the consciousness of the risks related to asbestos exposure is reached.”

Mesothelioma deaths, England and Wales, deaths registered 2010-14, ONS, August 2015 [excel file].
Mesothelioma in Great Britain 2014, Mesothelioma mortality in Great Britain 1968-2013, Health and Safety Executive, October 2015.
Eliminating occupational cancer in Europe, ETUI, 29 September 2015.
Claudio Bianchi and Tommaso Bianchi. Global mesothelioma epidemic: Trend and features, Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmentl Medicine, volume 18, number 2, pages 82-8, May 2014.

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Europe is in the midst of an asbestos disease epidemic – and it is far worse than previously thought. A new report has put deaths in the European Union caused by exposure to asbestos at three times previous estimates. And the UK tops the fatalities list.

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