Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It normally lies dormant within the body for several decades, with a latency period of 20 to 30 years being common.
The death of a former carpenter exposed to asbestos in his youth, however, shows that this dreadful disease can take even longer to strike. During the 1960s and 1970s, John La Masurier’s trade was carpentry and joinery. It was during this time that asbestos was widely used in building and household products.
Being regularly exposed to asbestos dust and fibres in his work eventually led to a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma in 2014, and Mr La Masurier passed away in July 2015.
Inquest verdict of industrial disease
Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter, confirmed that industrial disease was the cause of death, commenting:
“This is a tragic thing to occur and surely a very difficult thing to deal with. He was only 65 and when we normally deal with this disease it is a lot older. Obviously he was exposed to this a lot younger.”
The devastating characteristics of mesothelioma
Although other types of asbestos-related lung cancer are common, mesothelioma is particularly difficult to treat and largely unresponsive to chemotherapy. A sufferer’s decline in health is often rapid once diagnosed, with one to two years being a common prognosis.
Chronic chest pain, a persistent cough, and shortness of breath are all recognisable symptoms of this distressing disease, which also leads to a victim’s rapid weight loss. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures show that 2,538 people died from mesothelioma in the UK during 2013, with projections of approximately 2,500 deaths every year until 2020, when it’s predicted that figures will decline.
What about other asbestos-related diseases?
Non-malignant asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis and diffuse pleural thickening, but these can both be a precursor to malignant cancers. Asbestosis results in scarring of the lungs, and again, is not generally felt until at least 15 years after contact with asbestos.
Asbestosis is usually the result of long-term exposure, and because scarring on the lungs is progressive, the reduced capacity causes severe shortness of breath.
Diffuse pleural thickening is often diagnosed between 20 and 40 years after asbestos dust and fibres have been inhaled. All types of asbestos can cause this disease, with asbestos fibres settling within the pleura – the membrane that covers the lungs.
Victims suffer chronic breathlessness and chest pain, and because the lungs are restricted in movement pressure can be placed on the heart, making sufferers more prone to heart failure.
UKATA online training
The UK Asbestos Training Association regulates the provision of asbestos training courses, and ensures that each provider offers current information and up-to-date asbestos best practices. Asbestos awareness courses cover how to identify the substance, where it might be lying, and what to do if you encounter it in your normal line of work. An HSE asbestos certificate is downloadable at the end of each course.