HARTLEPOOL has the third highest death rate from asbestos related cancer in England and Wales, according to an independent study.
Figures obtained by not-for-profit campaign group the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) show that from 2006 to the end of 2010, the death rate for mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lung wall, was more than twice the national average in Hartlepool.
The disease, which almost exclusively affects workers who have come into contact with asbestos, was recorded as the underlying cause of 41 deaths in the area – the equivalent to 6.4 deaths in 100,000 people. The national average during the same period was 2.5.
APIL president David Bott said: “More people die of mesothelioma in Hartlepool per head of the population than most other parts of the country.
“This is bad enough, but the number of men dying from this disease is expected to peak during the next five years and what many people don’t realise is that hundreds of sufferers across the UK cannot get the compensation they need to help them through the last days of their life.”
The Hartlepool Mail has reported on numerous inquests where industrial disease has been ruled as the cause of death due to asbestos exposure.
Alan Clark, who died aged 59 in 2009 from mesothelioma after developing pleural plaques, was among them.
The dad-of-three, from Ormesby Road, Hartlepool, left a lasting legacy in an emotional video appeal to Government ministers that was shown at a Trade Union Congress (TUC) conference in Liverpool.
He was one of the last to successfully claim compensation for pleural plaques before the law was changed in 2007, leaving sufferers only able to qualify when diagnosed with mesothelioma.
In the interview, Alan, who worked with asbestos as a thermal insulation engineer, said: “It’s just greed on behalf of the shareholders and the insurers so they don’t have to pay money out.
“They are quite happy collecting premiums, but when it comes to pay out time they want to disappear or make it run for years and years and they don’t have to pay a penny out.”
Mr Bott said that many workers who have developed mesothelioma are sometimes unable to pursue a claim for damages because they can no longer trace the employer who exposed them to asbestos, or the employer’s insurance company.
He said the onset of symptoms often come decades after a worker has inhaled asbestos fibres, during which time employers go out of business and insurance documents can be lost or destroyed.
• To view Alan’s video visit www.unionstogether.org.uk/justice