Almost 500 asbestos-related cancer deaths confirmed in Portsmouth as new inquiry launched
CANCER linked to asbestos has claimed the lives of nearly 500 people in Portsmouth over almost four decades, new figures reveal.
MPs have launched an inquiry into how the material is being managed across the UK after serious safety concerns were raised.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a type of cancer which affects the lining of some organs, including the lungs.
Health and Safety Executive data shows the disease was responsible for 488 deaths in Portsmouth between 1981 and 2019 – the latest available figures.
Of those, 68 occurred between 2015 and 2019 – eight more than in 2010-14.
The figures also show the mesothelioma death rate among men in Portsmouth – taking age differences into account – is higher than across Great Britain as a whole.
Liz Darlison, CEO of charity Mesothelioma UK, said: ‘Our country is riddled with the stuff and we have to address this if we want to protect future generations.
‘We need a long-term, government-led initiative to remove asbestos, even if it takes several generations.’
Dawn McKinley, chairman of the UK Mesothelioma Alliance, added: ‘Teachers, former pupils, school janitors, cleaners and canteen staff are dying from asbestos-related cancer and mesothelioma, and the numbers are increasing.
‘The dose level required to contract mesothelioma is extremely small.
‘Our politicians, duty holders and decision makers must come together and use their powers to protect our children from the real dangers they face from exposure to asbestos in our schools.’
The inquiry will examine the risks posed by asbestos in the workplace, the actions taken by the HSE to mitigate them and how its approach compares to those taken in other countries.
Though traditionally, higher levels of asbestos-related illness were associated with work in industrial sites such as shipyards, in recent years that also expanded to other industries, including construction.
A HSE spokesman said: ‘Sadly, the damage from exposure to asbestos takes many decades to show itself as there is often a latency of up to 40 years before disease is detectable.
‘Asbestos is, however, still present in older buildings given its previous uses and it must be managed appropriately.’