Asbestos Campaigners Hail Government Meeting

Asbestos Campaigners Hail Government Meeting

Asbestos has been of major concern to thousands of British workers in recent years, with many cases each year involving the substance leading to severe <a rel=”nofollow” onclick=”javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackPageview', '/outgoing/article_exit_link']);” href=”personal”>”>personal injury</a> and death.  Campaigners have long highlighted the need for strong action to be taken by the government to deal with the problem quickly and definitely but many have been left frustrated by, what they see as, a lack of access to leading political figures.

All this changed this week though, as many delegates representing those who have suffered because of exposure to asbestos, were given a private meeting with the Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  Mr. Brown has himself had recent experience of the damage that can be done by asbestos after a long-time friend and fellow MP died after a long battle with Mesothelioma.

Exposure to asbestos can take many years to manifest itself in illness, which has been one of the major concerns of campaigners attempting to locate work records and employer’s insurance companies.

Concrete plans

Scottish Labour MP John MacDougall underwent a two year battle with Mesothelioma, which he developed while working as a boilermaker, died last year and had known the Prime Minister for three decades.

Mr. MacDougall’s death has led Brown to prioritise the growing asbestos related crisis, which is estimated to kill around 3,000 British workers every year, making it one of the largest causes of workers deaths in the country.

A union leader who was part of the delegation, which discussed asbestos injuries with the Prime Minister, said that Brown was the first leader in many years to take such a strong interest in the problem.

“We did not feel we had to persuade the PM there was a problem as he was fully aware and we were able to get all the key points across. For the first time in decades we have a Prime Minister prepared to look at this very important issue. The impression we got is that the Prime Minister was addressing this from a personal commitment,” said Chris Keates from NASUWT.

The importance of action

The need to deal with asbestos-related illnesses was again highlighted this week in the case of a former British Rail electrician who developed Mesothelioma after working in conditions, which his daughter said meant he was almost constantly exposed to the substance.

The man, who worked for British Rail for over 25 years died last year after a long battle with the illness and according to the coroner responsible for the case, his illness was a direct result of exposure during work.

“He was getting increasingly tired and had a cough that did not want to go away. Normally he was very fit and well. He would occasionally get colds but then sometimes I would go to visit him and he was very tired and found it took him longer to do the work he wanted to do,” said his daughter.

“My father had to detect electrical faults and recalled seeing large particles of dust floating in the air most of the time. There was no separation from the area where he worked and where the asbestos lagging was,” she added.

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