When you think of high-risk occupations for asbestos disease you are likely to think of plumbers, laggers, electricians and other tradesmen. You may be surprised to know that medical professionals are now among the list of at-risk workers.

“Hidden epidemic”

Doctor Kate Richmond has warned of the “hidden epidemic” of cancers caused by asbestos among people exposed in hospitals. Dr Richmond, who now lives in Australia, but was exposed to asbestos when working for the NHS as a medical student and junior doctor, is trying to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos following her diagnosis of mesothelioma in May 2018.

Mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos

Mesothelioma is a cancer affecting the linings of the body’s organs. Most commonly it affects the lungs, pleural mesothelioma, or the abdomen, peritoneal mesothelioma, but it can affect any part of the body.

Currently there is no cure for mesothelioma. Researchers are making great strides in developing treatments for the condition but so far, they have only been able to shrink the cancer, reducing symptoms and increasing life expectancy of patients.

The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos in hospitals

Dr Richmond recalls working at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry between 1998 and 2004 when maintenance workers removed asbestos ceiling tiles without putting any protective measures in place. This caused dust and debris to be released wherever the work was being carried out, often in wards where patients were in bed and where staff were doing their work.

She also remembers regularly using underground service tunnels to move between different areas of the hospital. Many of the tunnels contained asbestos lagged pipes which could have also exposed her to asbestos dust.

Breaches of Asbestos Regulations

Since 2010 there have been 13 prosecutions against the NHS for breaching the Asbestos Regulations and over 380 claims for asbestos disease compensation have been made against the NHS since 2013.

Deaths due to mesothelioma

Between 2011 and 2017, 128 people who worked in health and social care roles died due to mesothelioma. Whilst it cannot be known if their exposure to asbestos occurred in a health care establishment, the number of health care workers diagnosed with mesothelioma is on the rise and this cannot be a coincidence.

Tip of the iceberg

Mesothelioma and other asbestos conditions, such as pleural thickening and asbestosis, have a latency period of between 10 and 50 years from the time of exposure to asbestos. Due to this, Dr Richmond believes the full extent of the medical profession’s asbestos problem will not be known for many years; “I am far from unique, this is the tip of the iceberg. I strongly believe there is a hidden epidemic.”

If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos compensation claim for mesothelioma or other asbestos disease, then please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.

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