Young people are at higher risk when exposed to asbestos, says asbestos consultant

By Olivia Ogilvie

It’s often that asbestos exposure is linked to jobs that men worked in as asbestos was predominantly found in shipyards and construction yards. Asbestos can be found in areas you may not even be aware of such as old schools, hospitals and offices it is highly likely these buildings contain asbestos fibres.

Robin Howie, a consultant on asbestos says: “Asbestos does damage you other than inhalation, what causes damage is you inhale dust particles containing asbestos and those deposit in the lung and get transferred from the lung to other parts of the body.

In any industrial or residential building built or refurbished before the year 2000 asbestos can be found. It is in many of the common materials used in the building trade that you may come across during your work.

Howie continued to say: “If both a 25 year old and 70 year old were exposed to asbestos the risk to a 25 year old is 1000 times higher than the risk to a 70 year old purely because of the 55 year survival compared to the 10 year survival to age 80 the real risk is more serious for younger people, not because young people’s bodies are more acceptable it’s because they have longer to live.”

A report from CNN explains that despite a ban on asbestos in manufacturing sectors, young people are still at risk of asbestos exposure and developing deadly asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma.

The U.S. Centres for Diseases and Controls (CDC) reported that the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths rose from 2,479 in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015. Unsurprisingly, most of the deaths occurred in people over the age of 85, but what is surprising is that during the same time period, there were 682 cases of mesothelioma deaths in people between 25 and 44 years old.

Mesothelioma can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years to manifest. For so many young people to be dying from this disease must mean that they’ve had exposure to asbestos during their childhood or since the ban on the use of asbestos in the 1970s.

The charity, Clydeside action on Asbestos based in Glasgow was set up in 1984, it lobbies, campaigns and works hand in hand with medical and legal experts to help and support victims of asbestos related diseases.

The charity works hard to fight for compensation for people who have become ill because employers failed in their duties to protect them. They have successfully implemented changes in Scottish law giving the victims of the conditions and their families more rights than elsewhere.

Phyllis Craig, senior welfare rights officer and director talks about asbestos exposure: “Asbestos is in all old buildings it’s only new builds that won’t have asbestos whereas you used to have it in the shipbuilding industry you’re now seeing it in the construction industry. We would like to see asbestos removed from schools 75% of schools built post war contain asbestos.

“Men were predominantly the ones that worked with asbestos but there has been a 15% increase in women who have asbestos related diseases and people always think this is because they wash their husband’s overalls we have to get away from that myth because women have always worked.”

Clydeside action on asbestos is a self -funding charity they rely on voluntary donations from the public to continue the work they do. Donations also allow the charity to campaign on behalf of those who are diagnosed with an asbestos related condition and host events to raise awareness of such diseases.

Phyllis spoke about the charity’s loss of funding: “Previously we received a grant, a three-year grant from the 16B Scottish Government grant fund and the whole of the 16B grant was withdrawn and discontinued. They would tell you to apply under section 10 but the criteria for section 10 we don’t fit into. Not just us but all the people that receive grants under section 16B their all left without funding, they haven’t opened a different fund this fund has just been withdrawn so we don’t have that anymore.

“Our charity relies on either fundraisers raising money or donations from people who are clients who when they settle their civil case they donate to the charity or we host events to raise funds, that’s what brings in any sort of money to us. We also get a council grant from Glasgow City Council.”

At some time during life everyone is exposed to asbestos as low levels of asbestos are present in the air, water, and soil. However, most people do not become ill from the exposure. The people that become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material or through substantial environmental contact.

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