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HSE statistics show male carpenters and female teachers most likely to die from asbestos disease

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the independent regulator that uses information and data to prevent work-related death, injury and ill-health, has published its 2020 report into mesothelioma death statistics by last known occupation of the deceased.

The report, which looks at deaths from mesothelioma of people aged 16 to 74 from 2011-2018, offers a way to identify the occupations associated with a higher risk of contracting the asbestos-related disease which, in most cases, is fatal.

The analyses of the trends is offered in the context that annual mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain up until 2018 have increased steadily each year, with death among men consistently outnumbering the number of women dying from the disease by around five to one. Men are much more likely to have been exposed to asbestos at work than women.

Overall, within the time period, there are 12,000 deaths from lung disease each year, estimated to be linked to exposure to asbestos, with mesothelioma causing 20 per cent of those deaths.

Professions most associated with asbestos disease

Of the men affected, most previously worked as carpenters and joiners, plumbers and heating and ventilation engineers, pipe fitters, ship builders, electricians, floorers and wall tilers.

Most of the women affected by mesothelioma worked as teaching and educational professionals (94 deaths). Particularly among women, the statistics show that these tragic deaths reflect environmental exposure to asbestos, in places such as schools, rather than occupational asbestos exposure from direct handling of asbestos, as is the case of men working as pipe laggers and carpenters, for example.

Since occupational lung diseases typically take a long time to develop following exposure to the agent that caused them, current deaths tend to reflect the terrible impact of past working conditions. However, mesothelioma rates in areas associated with shipbuilding are rising more slowly than the overall rate for Great Britain, or even falling, most likely because the industry has been in decline for some time.

Asbestos exposure in the construction industry accounts for a large proportion of mesothelioma deaths but is less likely to be associated with specific areas, rather, they are likely to have taken place over a wide range of areas.

Geographical areas with highest mortality from mesothelioma

Geographical areas with the highest mortality rates tend to be those known to contain large industrial sites such as shipyards and asbestos product factories. As expected, the area with the most fatalities is Barrow-in-Furness, followed by West Dunbartonshire, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Portsmouth and Plymouth, followed by Medway, Hartlepool, Southampton and Gosport.

The geographical areas with the highest mesothelioma death of women were Barking and Dagenham, Sunderland, Newham, West Dunbartonshire, Leeds, Barrow-in-Furness, followed by Blackburn, Havering, Newcastle upon Tyne and Medway.

While these statistics are important to academic research, as solicitors most often acting for bereaved families, we never forget that each statistic involves a person who worked hard their whole life to do the best for their family, unknowingly being exposed to asbestos by the negligence of an employer and, tragically, often unwittingly taking fatal dust on work clothes and overalls home to those families.

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