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Dangerous rise in asbestos-related disease in north east

The boom of North Sea oil in the 1970’s is responsible for an increase in asbestos-related disease in the north east of Scotland.

At our recent conference at the Jurys Inn Hotel in Aberdeen, we voiced these concerns about tradesmen across the north east being exposed to asbestos due to an increase in construction in the area from the oil boom.

It transpired that more asbestos sufferers have passed away this year across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray than those that had been killed in car accidents throughout 2017.

We hope the medical community will help fill in the gaps in care for some of these individuals by giving more information about the availability of specialist, local support as soon as someone is diagnosed with an asbestos related disease.

John Fearn, manager at Asbestos Action, said: “The harm caused by asbestos in Scotland is not an issue isolated to the central belt. In the last few years across the north-east, the numbers of those in need of health, social and legal support have increased at an unprecedented rate – so much so that we’ve had to employ an Aberdeen-based respiratory nurse to assist those in need.

“The background of many of our clients in this area has led us to believe their conditions have been contracted by working in trades during a boom in construction work linked to the wealth generated by the oil and gas industry.

“Conditions like, asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma have caused the deaths of 16 of our north-east clients in the last 10 months alone.

“If people were to be killed in such numbers on our roads across the north-east, then roads safety issues would rightly be highlighted to the public – however we rarely hear of public health initiatives to support victims of asbestos exposure or reduce the numbers of those affected.

“Asbestos Action will continue to support everyone we can and we encourage everyone – especially GPs and social care officials – to be mindful of the need for local, specialist and personal advice and support for individuals and their families so they are prepared for the future.”

Over 40 years ago, the oil boom led to growth in the construction industry. Additionally shipyards were given a new lease of life, with new vessels being required in order to transport both workers and equipment to offshore oil and gas platforms.

Unfortunately, a number of firms throughout this period did not pay enough attention to the known risks of asbestos exposure and were careless when following asbestos safety rules, while others chose to ignore them completely. This led to numerous tradesmen being exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres every day at work.

This has led to a number of these employees to develop various asbestos conditions ranging from pleural plaques, which is scarring of the lining of the lung caused by asbestos, to mesothelioma, a terminal lung cancer which can prove fatal within weeks of diagnosis.

Fraser Simpson, Partner at Digby Brown Solicitors is Head of the Industrial Disease team, which has worked with many hundreds of individuals, investigating historical exposure to asbestos and securing sufferers and their families’ justice by holding previous employers to account.

Their Industrial Disease team have secured more than £1.3 million in compensation for asbestos sufferers and their families in the North East in the last 18 months alone, with further legal cases still to settle. Mr Simpson, who is also spoke at the conference, added:

“North-east cases are becoming increasingly common and the tragic thing about this is that the numbers we have only relate to those who have stepped forward to launch a civil action. “I’m in no doubt that others will be out there but are unaware of how to go about seeking legal assistance.

“This is why it is important to highlight the issues to sufferers and healthcare professionals, to bridge the gaps in support. Someone diagnosed with any asbestos-related disease, no matter how benign, could lose their right to justice if they fail to seek specialist advice and support within three years of the date of the original diagnosis. This is true even if they then go on develop a more serious asbestos disease.”


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