DEATHS from asbestos exposure are currently at their peak in Warwickshire – but should soon become a thing of the past.
Warwickshire Coroner Sean McGovern said he was conducting at least one asbestos-related inquest every week, but predicted in a few years there would be next to none.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material which for many years was regularly used in the building trade before its dangers were realised.
Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma – the incurable cancer of the lungs caused directly by inhaling microscopic asbestos particles – which now kills more than 1,800 people in the UK annually.
This is expected to rise to 2,000 in the next few years, but since asbestos stopped being used in the 1980s, death levels are then set to tail off dramatically.
Doctors writing in the British Medical Journal said the peak was always expected to happen at this time as the disease often takes more than 50 years to take hold.
Mr McGovern said: “It is a difficult disease for those who have it and those around them. Many people suffer from the mistakes of the past.
“Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot more asbestos-related inquests and its down to the time it takes for Mesothelioma to set it. We now deal with at least one asbestos-related death at Leamington Justice Centre every week.
“It was only in the late 1970s that people became aware of the dangers that affected so many, including my own father.”
Asbestos is still found today in many buildings, including homes, schools and hospitals, and there are strict rules on its disposal.