It is widely known that asbestos causes pulmonary diseases such as asbestosis and pleural disease and malignancies such as colon cancer, esophageal and laryngeal cancers, stomach cancer, lung cancer and mesothelioma. According to the latest studies performed by the Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton, Derbyshire, individuals exposed to asbestos during their working life are also significantly more susceptible to heart disease and stroke.
Researchers evaluated a group of 99,680 asbestos workers that were monitored for an average of 19 years. A total of 15,557 workers died during the study period. 1,053 of these deaths resulted from stroke and 4,185 were due to heart disease.
It was found that male asbestos workers were 63 percent more likely to die from stroke than the general population and 39 percent more likely to die of heart disease. For woman the statistics rose to a startling 100 percent and 89 percent respectively. It was also noted that the duration of exposure was commensurate with the risk of dying from heart disease.
A group of 98,912 asbestos workers took part in a voluntary medical surveillance for the early detection of asbestos related disease. Personal information such as age and gender as well as data such as duration of occupational exposure to asbestos, job type and smoking history was logged and updated for a nineteen year period. These individuals were flagged for death registrations with the National Health Service Central Register so that a cause of death could also be ascertained. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of the workers were successfully traced.
Comparing mortality among the asbestos workers with that of the Great Britain population demonstrated a significant excess of deaths among men and women for both cerebrovascular and heart disease, both overall and within each smoking status category. The analysis showed that the increase in risk of heart disease with age and with duration of exposure to asbestos was greater amongst never-smokers than among current smokers. These findings provide some evidence that occupational exposure to asbestos was associated with cardiovascular disease mortality in this group of workers.
Despite these new findings, heart disease and stroke are still NOT compensable injuries. Bankruptcy trusts as well as non-bankrupt companies still do not recognize heart disease as an asbestos related disease nor do they offer settlement funds to those who have suffered a stroke. Perhaps with additional studies and evidence of the link between asbestos exposure and heart disease and stroke, these victims of asbestos exposure too will be allowed to seek compensation.
Just about the same time these results were published (in early April of 2012) new Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 came into force. The changes were few, but they do constitute an attempt to address and change the European Commission’s view that the UK had not fully implemented the European Union Directive on exposure to asbestos (Directive 2009/148/EC). The changes are as follows
- From 6 April 2012, some non-licensed work needs to be notified to the relevant enforcing authority.
- From 6 April 2012, brief written records should be kept of non-licensed work, which has to be notified e.g. copy of the notification with a list of workers on the job, plus the level of likely exposure of those workers to asbestos. This does not require air monitoring on every job, if an estimate of degree of exposure can be made based on experience of similar past tasks or published guidance.
- By April 2015, all workers/self employed doing notifiable non-licensed work with asbestos must be under health surveillance by a Doctor. Workers who are already under health surveillance for licensed work need not have another medical examination for non-licensed work. BUT medicals for notifiable non-licensed work are not acceptable for those doing licensed work.
- Some modernization of language and changes to reflect other legislation, e.g. the prohibition section has been removed, as the prohibition of supply and use of asbestos is now covered by REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals Regulations 2006).