Sunderland among worst in the country for asbestos-related deaths

Coun John Kelly
Coun John Kelly
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Sunderland has one of the highest asbestos–related death rates in the country.

The city has mortality rate of 7.4 asbestos–related deaths per 100,000 of the population according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.

Sadly, asbestos was widely used for many years.

Coun John Kelly

Between 2010 and 2014, 94 Wearsiders died from mesothelioma – a cancer of the lungs – making it the 18th worst affected area in the country.

Council bosses acknowledge that the substance was widely used in the past, but say any asbestos now identified is removed in line with health, safety and legal guidance.

Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “Sadly, asbestos was widely used for many, many years and had many, many uses. While it is no longer used in the work or at home, its prevalence means there are always issues about how and when it is discovered or disturbed.

“If the council identifies any asbestos risks then they are immediately dealt with and in line with health, safety and legal guidance.

Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria, has the highest mortality rate in the country with 14.3 per 100,000 having asbestos related deaths, while South Tyneside came in second with a rate of 10.9.

Jonathan Wheeler, president of not-for-profit group the Association Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), said: “Mesothelioma is a legacy of Britain’s heritage.

“Thankfully, employers nowadays are more aware of the dangers of exposing workers to asbestos.

“But those who were exposed 30 or 40 years ago are now facing death sentences for simply turning up to work.”

Asbestos is made up of tiny fibres. People can breathe these fibres in when they come into contact with the substance.

The fibres work their way into the pleura, lining the lung. They irritate the pleura and may cause gene changes (mutations) that lead to the growth of cancer.

Some of the fibres that have been breathed in can be coughed up and swallowed. This is probably the cause of peritoneal mesothelioma.