Increase in asbestos-related conditions in Scotland

Asbestos dust in air

Significant Increase in Number of Hospital Admissions for Asbestos Exposure Conditions in Scotland

Leading charity warns of danger of asbestos inaction

A leading Scottish charity has urged people with concerns about their exposure to asbestos to seek help and support as soon as possible.

Asbestos Action, who work with victims of asbestos-exposure and their families, made the call as figures released by the Scottish Government show the number of hospital admissions in Scotland for asbestos related conditions has increased by over 32% over the past five years. 

The number of deaths recorded as being caused by asbestos related conditions increased in the same period.  If the trend suggested by the figures continues, asbestos-related deaths could overtake the number of road deaths recorded in Scotland each year. 

The figures were published in response to a Scottish Parliament Written Question from Siobhan McMahon MSP (Labour - Central Scotland).

Disease associated with asbestos exposure represents a potential ticking time bomb, with an increasing number of individuals being diagnosed with asbestos related conditions following exposure to asbestos fibres which may have occurred up to 40 years ago. People exposed to asbestos can suffer from a number of conditions, from pleural plaques, a form of scarring of the lungs which may not develop into anything more serious, to mesothelioma at the other end of the scale, an aggressive and incurable form of lung cancer

Alison Blake, General Manager of Asbestos Action, fears significant numbers of people suffering from asbestos-related conditions are not accessing the support available to them and their families, or fully aware of their legal rights. Alison Blake said:

“An increasing number of people have to face up to the harsh reality of a lingering death sentence simply because of the work they may have undertaken many years ago.  Each week we deal with many individuals and families whose lives have been blighted. 

“It is likely the number of those affected by asbestos exposure has yet to peak.  It is accordingly essential that every effort is made to educate the public of the dangers of asbestos exposure, not just in the workplace but also to those who may engage in domestic DIY activities.

“The statistics also appear to suggest that a significant number of individuals receiving treatment for asbestos related conditions may not be accessing the wider support services available. 

“Of particular concern is that there may be a number of people diagnosed with pleural plaques who, because they do not experience any obvious incapacity, do not access the wider support services available, including legal services. These individuals are therefore not made aware of their rights to pursue a legal claim in Scotland, or the fact that if they fail to do so within 3 years of diagnosis, they may be subsequently time barred and prevented from pursuing a legal remedy, even if a more serious asbestos related condition is diagnosed.”

Disease caused by asbestos exposure is preventable. The dangers of exposure to asbestos dust have been known for over a century but despite this many workers continued to be exposed to this danger, in various industries, well into the 1980s, or later, without adequate warning, training or protective equipment.  Conditions arising from asbestos exposure are not conditions of the 50s or 60s; rather it is only now in the 21st Century that many people are suffering the consequences of negligent asbestos exposure.

Whilst use of asbestos in industry has greatly declined, asbestos was still used in the building industry until recently, and can be found in various forms throughout Scotland.

Anyone concerned about the consequences of asbestos exposure can receive independent and confidential advice by contacting the Asbestos Action helpline on 01382 225 715.

More information

Scottish Government figures on hospital admissions in Scotland for asbestos related conditions and deaths recorded as being caused by asbestos related conditions were provided in response to (S4W-17200) by Siobhan McMahon MSP (Labour – Central Scotland). The written answer, published on 26 September 2013, can be found here. 

Digby Brown working alongside Asbestos Action

Digby Brown has close links with Asbestos Action. We are proud to support this inspirational charity, which was set up in 2001 by sufferers to provide emotional and practical advice and support to other suffers of asbestos related conditions.

This powerful video has more on Asbestos Action’s work.

More information can be found at Asbestos Action