A new report has shown that the borough of Hillingdon has the fourth highest asbestos death rate in London.
Between 1981 and 2005 there were 135 deaths in Hillingdon. Across London 2,663 men were killed by the disease, with only Havering, Newham, and Dagenham and Redbridge boroughs topping Hillingdon's total.
The most common asbestos related disease is mesothelioma- a cancer caused by breathing in the deadly fibres.
Why does Hillingdon have such a high rate of asbestos-related disease?
After the First World War a number of industries moved to Uxbridge and Hillingdon from the metropolitan area. The largest of these was the Bell Punch Co. (established 1878), which in 1919 moved from premises in the City of London to the site of an old mill west of Uxbridge. In 1963, the firm, which manufactured ticket machines, taximeters, and other technical instruments, employed approximately 1,500 persons in workshops.
Many workers were exposed to asbestos following the Second World War. As Hillingdon and its surrounding areas became more industrialised, the risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease increased.
Since 1945, Uxbridge has also been the home of Cape Building Products Ltd (formerly the Uxbridge Flint Brick Company). The company is a subsidiary of Cape PLC, one of the largest former asbestos manufacturers in the world.
The most dangerous type of asbestos has not been used in Britain since the 1960s, when a voluntary industry ban came into effect. Even when it was used, only people in specific industries worked closely with it – pipe laggers, builders, carpenters and shipyard workers, for example.
Why is it continuing to attract headlines and cause suffering today?
Although exposure to asbestos in Britain is largely a thing of the past, the death toll is alarmingly etched on our future. The product was not officially banned until 1999 and it is still present in a number of buildings, including over three-quarters of schools and the Houses of Parliament.
Asbestos fibres can lie dormant on victims' lungs for up to half a century; deaths from asbestos in Britain will not peak until 2018.
In 2012, a former Cape Building Products employee, David Chandler, won an historic Court of Appeal ruling when he successfully sued parent company Cape PLC for compensation, smashing the right of corporations who put workers at risk the right to hide behind a ‘corporate veil’. Mr Chandler was exposed to asbestos between 1959 and 1961. However, he was not diagnosed with asbestosis until 2007.
According to Britain’s leading expert on mesothelioma, Professor Julian Peto, it is estimated that between 1970 and 2050, when the asbestos epidemic in Britain should have played itself out, some 90,000 people will have died.
Most of the future victims currently have no idea that they will die this way.
If you have been exposed to asbestos fibres you could be entitled to compensation
Mesothelioma is always fatal and the average life-expectancy following diagnosis is around eight months. Money is vital for victims, not only to provide care, but to ensure their family is well provided for after they have gone.
Which, tragically, is usually far sooner than they expected.
At IBB, our industrial diseases team, led by Alan Jolliffe, has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to seek compensation for an asbestos-related disease. To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our contact form. Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.