Proposals have been made to establish a Scottish-based Centre of Excellence for work-related lung disorders. It is hoped that it will help to identify and provide much-needed support to sufferers of debilitating and life-threatening asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.
MSP Hugh Henry of the Scottish Parliament will also introduce a motion for Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital to be the location of the new centre, intending it to become a world-leading site for the treatment of asbestos-related disease.
Renfrewshire resident, Ian McConaghy, who has suffered from asbestosis for 15 years after working in the shipbuilding industry, expressed his worries that the construction industry is also now a “ticking timebomb” for those exposed to asbestos in their line of work.
Scottish shipyards carried a heavy asbestos toll
Mr McConaghy came into contact with asbestos as an apprentice marine engineer on the Royal Fleet Auxilliary ship, Resource, during the 1960s. Asbestos would have been used in many areas of the ship, including the boiler room with much of the lagging for pipe work, valves and turbines containing the substance.
In an interview for Scottish newspaper, the Daily Record, Mr McConaghy described the ship on which he was based as being “awash” with asbestos. Indeed, the fire-retardant and insulating properties of the substance made it a popular material to use in these dangerous surroundings, and amongst other locations, it would have been found in ceiling and wall panels, concrete and floor tiling, and firebricks for the furnaces.
Workers’ families also exposed to asbestos dangers
Workers in the Scottish shipyards, and tradespeople working in construction, were not the only people exposed to asbestos. Many workers returned home wearing overalls covered with dust and fibres, unwittingly exposing their family to the same dangers.
One such victim was Mary Campbell, wife of an electrician, who washed her husband’s work clothes every day and was subsequently exposed to the asbestos. As a result, she received a compensation payout after being diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2012.
Centre of Excellence would be a fitting tribute
Mr McConaghy said that setting up a Centre of Excellence for work-related lung disorders would be a fitting tribute to those in the shipbuilding industry in Greenock, Glasgow and Troon, who have sadly died as a result of being exposed to asbestos at work.
His fears are that workers in the construction industry now face a similar threat. The prolific use of asbestos in construction means that builders, architects, surveyors – indeed anyone working within a construction-related trade or profession – is potentially at risk.
Health and Safety Executive figures show that asbestosis is likely to have contributed to the deaths of 516 people in Great Britain in 2013, whilst 2,538² deaths from mesothelioma occurred in the same year.
The construction and shipbuilding industries are likely to have had a major influence on the high level of these statistics, but the worrying truth is that asbestos-related disease can result from working in any type of old building, including hospitals, libraries and schools.