A female face of Britain’s asbestos catastrophe

June 20, 2012

June HancockConsidering the colossal levels of asbestos exposure experienced by British workers, consumers, bystanders and community members during the 20th century, there can be no doubt that the death toll from asbestos-related diseases has been massive; one occupational hygienist has estimated that the country’s cumulative asbestos death toll could well exceed 800,000. It is unfortunately true, however, that no one knows how many lives have been lost due to Britain’s love affair with asbestos; how many families have been torn asunder by avoidable asbestos-related deaths or how many children’s lives have been decimated by the early loss of a parent or the trauma of a beloved grandparent’s premature death.

Nowadays, Britain has the unwelcome distinction of having the world’s highest mortality rate from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Historically, male mesothelioma deaths have dominated the statistics with, at times, six times as many male as female fatalities. Considering the lower death rate amongst British women, it is of interest to note that so many of the landmark cases through which the national asbestos reality has been revealed relate to the tragic experiences of female victims. In factories and schools, at home and at work, British women have paid with their lives for the asbestos industry’s profits.

Read the full article by Laurie Kazan-Allen on the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat website.