A new project was launched recently to help inform future research into the best way to treat and care for mesothelioma sufferers.
The survey is being conducted by the ‘Mesothelioma Priority Setting Partnership’ (PSP), which was recently set up by non-profit group the James Lind Alliance and is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research, a government body.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that mainly affects the lining of the lungs and is caused by breathing in asbestos fibres. The disease is usually fatal, and symptoms do not become apparent until decades after the initial exposure, by which point it is too late for surgical intervention.
Around 4,000 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK.
The PSP is designed to identify and prioritise unanswered questions about mesothelioma, helping to establish the top ten priorities for further clinical research.
“It is vital that we gather and listen to the views of as many people as possible so everyone knows the topics that are a priority for clinical research,” said Professor Dame Sally C. Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health. “Mesothelioma research has been identified as an important area and everyone needs to hear what patients, carers, families and healthcare professionals believe are the most important unanswered questions around the diagnosis, treatment and care of mesothelioma.”
When it comes to mesothelioma, prevention is undoubtedly better than cure. Sadly, while there are very strict rules in place on the removal of asbestos, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides a great deal of advice and guidance on the subject, some employers continue to put their workers’ lives at risk by exposing them to deadly asbestos fibres.
In one recent case in Suffolk, workers were exposed to the hazardous material during work to replace windows at a school.
Asbestos panels were known to be present, but the window company assured the school that these would be removed by registered contractors and disposed of appropriately.
However, the company was not licensed to work with asbestos. They not only failed to let their employees know that they would be handling asbestos, they also didn’t put any control measures in place to prevent the spread of fibres.
When the lapse was eventually discovered the school was forced to pay £111,495 to carry out a thorough clean of the area and replace equipment that had been contaminated.
The company was fined a total of £24,000 and ordered to pay £10,571 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulations 8(1) and 11(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Elizabeth Fowle said that the company’s failings had exposed workers to asbestos levels many times in excess of the Control Limit.
“The long term health risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres include lung cancer and mesothelioma,” she explained. “It was extremely fortunate that this work took place during the school holiday which meant that there were no pupils on site and few school staff.”
In another HSE case, workers at a re-upholstery firm were exposed to potentially-deadly asbestos fibres for nearly five years.
The Rochdale based company had moved into a unit of a mill and created a mezzanine storage area in the eaves of the roof.
Workers put foam for furniture in the storage space, often placing it on the beams and underside of the roof, which it later emerged contained asbestos. As employees dragged the foam through the eaves before throwing it down onto the floor, fine layers of asbestos dust were released into the air.
The company was fined £30,000 after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers and failing to comply with a Prohibition Notice that had been put in place when asbestos was identified.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector David Norton commented: “Workers at Mansfield Soft Furnishings will have to live the rest of their lives knowing they’re at risk of contracting a deadly lung disease because of the actions of their employer.”
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