The Health and Safety Executive has released data that shows a total of 1,064 people across the region died from mesothelioma, a form of terminal cancer which often develops decades after exposure to hazardous asbestos.
The figures, released to coincide with International Workers’ Memorial Day last Saturday, highlight the ‘terrible legacy’ of South Yorkshire’s industrial heritage, say specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell.
The law firm’s Sheffield asbestos-related disease team has represented many hundreds of families affected by mesothelioma.
Adrian Budgen, specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell said: “The reality is thousands of people are dying due to asbestos exposure in the past. The majority of those were exposed at work, and were completely unaware of the dangers of the hazardous material.
“Workers’ Memorial Day is an important time to reflect on the terrible impact that asbestos has had on so many lives. These recent HSE figures highlight the tragic reality that we see day to day in our work.”
The HSE statistics date from 1981 to 2015 and show that 945 men and 119 women died from mesothelioma. Sheffield recorded the highest number of deaths with 448 – 398 men and 50 women – followed by Doncaster with 366 – 336 men and 30 women.
A total of 141 men and 24 women and 70 men and 15 women died in Rotherham and Barnsley respectively in the same period.
Workers’ Memorial Day is a day to ‘remember the dead and to fight for the living’ by paying respects to those who have died as a result of their employment and continuing to improve health and safety standards in the workplace.
Events held to mark the day included speeches and a wreath-laying ceremony outside Sheffield Town Hall.
Irwin Mitchell used the day to shine a light on the issue of asbestos. Inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres can also cause lung cancer and other serious diseases, including asbestosis and pleural thickening.
The firm has provided legal support to a vast number of people in the South Yorkshire region whose lives have been affected by asbestos, including those diagnosed with related illnesses or individuals who have sadly lost a loved one to such a condition.
Adrian added: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive and incurable cancer and, very sadly, causes a great deal of suffering to those affected by it. That’s why it is so important that we work to get justice and answers for those who were exposed to asbestos.
“The first regulations to manage the use of asbestos became law in 1931, so to learn that people were exposed to the fibres much later is very upsetting for the individuals or the families who come to us.”