The Personal Injury Blog

Mesothelioma in the UK

The United Kingdom possesses one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world.

But what is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs. The cause of this disease is linked to asbestos exposure.
As in the majority of countries, most UK residents who die from this disease are older than 65, though some younger individuals have been diagnosed because of second hand exposure and indirect contact with asbestos materials. Men comprise around 80% of people who receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, which also fits the worldwide profile for this cancer. However the annual number of deaths among women has increased more rapidly than among men over the last 10 years. Figures for women rose 68% in the last decade compared to 35% for men. Women are often exposed to asbestos indirectly by having lived in areas near asbestos factories or by having had contact with people who worked with asbestos.

In 2013 a total of 2538 UK residents died from mesothelioma and from 2011 to 2013 (the last year after which figures are available) the UK mesothelioma rate rose to 68.2 per million for men and 12.7per million for women (Health and Safety Executive statistics). The rate is so high because the UK government permitted the use of asbestos long after other countries banned the use of this substance.

High Risk Groups

Construction workers in the UK are a high risk group, primarily because asbestos was so prevalent for so long in the country’s older buildings and houses. The use of asbestos was only banned in the UK in 1999 so structures erected or renovated prior to 2000 are likely to contain asbestos. By comparison, buildings constructed after the 1980s in the United States are presumed to have only minimal amounts of asbestos, if any at all.
Other occupations at high risk for exposure include workers in the ship building industry, HVAC engineers, plasterers, roofing contractors, demolition crews, painters, pipe fitters, maintenance workers, teachers, carpenters, joiners, plumbers, boiler makers and electricians.
Asbestos was used widely in factories, chemical plants, power plants, refineries, commercial buildings, homes and schools throughout the UK. Little thought was given to the potential dangers of the mineral, even though scientific findings from as early as the 1920s and 1930s suggested the substance was causing serious respiratory illnesses in individuals exposed to airborne asbestos fibres.

As a result of increasing mesothelioma diagnoses in the second half of the 20th century, the UK government began to acknowledge the connection between asbestos exposure and certain lung diseases. Legislation is now in place to protect those who might still encounter the material as well as those who have been affected by past exposure.
Determining who is liable in cases involving asbestos exposure and mesothelioma is difficult as the disease can take 20 to 50 years to develop. As a result of this doctors are unable to make a diagnosis until it is possible to detect the symptoms by which time the initial exposure to asbestos can be a distant memory. Most mesothelioma victims worked for one or more companies that used asbestos from the 1950’s through to the 1980’s and given that a diagnosis is typically not given until many years after exposure, locating these companies and the relevant insurance company can be difficult.

If you should find yourself in pursuit of an asbestos compensation claim it will be necessary to recall as many incidents as possible when you may have been exposed to asbestos. For today’s victims this may be a challenging task with specialist legal advice required in order to trace past employers or their insurers given that a firm may no longer exist. However it is possible with the right legal advice and support to bring a successful claim.

For free, friendly advice on making a personal injury claim, please call 0114 218 4000 or email

Julie Moore

Julie is a litigation executive at Taylor&Emmet LLP. She assists in a wide variety of cases inducing those concerning accidents at work and RTA's. Julie started working at Taylor&Emmet in 2009, prior to joining the firm she worked at a law firm in Leeds having graduated from the city too. For more information on this topic email or call her on 0114 218 4161.

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