The UK Asbestos Plague  

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Every five hours, a person dies from mesothelioma in the UK. This aggressive form of asbestos cancer was once a rare disease; nowadays it is killing nearly 2,000 people a year and experts predict that in the coming decades there could be 120,000+ more UK asbestos deaths. Even though mesothelioma is Britain's biggest workplace killer claiming more lives than road traffic accidents, few people know about it and even fewer can pronounce it.

To raise public awareness, asbestos victims' groups, in collaboration with public health campaigners, trade unions and NGOs, are holding the 2nd National Action Mesothelioma Day on February 27, 2007;1 meetings, rallies, balloon releases and memorial services will be held in regional asbestos hotspots with an asbestos event being convened in Westminster by MP Michael Clapham, Chair of the House of Commons All Party Asbestos Sub-Committee.2 To compliment these activities, an 8 minute video clip entitled Mesothelioma - The Human Face of an Asbestos Epidemic will be shown on BBC city-center TV screens throughout February 27. This striking and dramatic video can be watched anywhere in the world by accessing YouTube;3 more visual material gathered by Jason Addy and the production team from Calderdale TV can be accessed on another website, 4 while an Action Mesothelioma podcast can be heard on another.5

To mark Action Mesothelioma Day, Health Minister Rosie Winterton announced the publication of a National Mesothelioma Framework6 at an event held by the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, an asbestos victim support group in Newcastle. She said:

“Mesothelioma can be a challenging condition for the NHS to diagnose and manage, especially as the number of cases varies around the country so that, in some areas, it is a rare condition.

It is important that we work to improve quality of care to a uniformly high level across the country. With a potential peak of cases less then 10 years away, we have a window of opportunity now to ensure that the NHS has done all it can to provide a high quality service for all mesothelioma patients.”

The 53-page framework, which was developed by the Department of Health in collaboration with its Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Advisory Group and the British Thoracic Society, covers a range of issues including diagnosis, treatment, supportive and palliative care, the role of clinical nurse specialists, research, information, benefits and compensation. The recommendations contained in this voluntary service guidance for the National Health Service are intended to improve the quality of care and outcomes for all UK patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

February 27, 2007


1 Amicus, the UK's largest private sector union, is calling on its members to commemorate the country's asbestos tragedy by staging a one minute silence on AMD. A poster for the workplace is available which can be downloaded from the Amicus website:
Amicus also operates a national asbestos database for its members;

2 See: Action Mesothelioma Day







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