Mesothelioma is contracted from exposure to asbestos - even the tiniest amount will prove fatal once it's in the lung. Photo: Getty
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Kate Green MP: We must invest in research into asbestos-caused lung conditions

On Action for Mesothelioma Day, the shadow minister for disabled people writes about raising awareness of a fatal disease contracted from exposure to asbestos.

This Friday marks Action for Mesothelioma Day, when victims, families and campaigners will come together to remember those lost to this terrible lung cancer, and to discuss the actions needed to bring justice to those who suffered, simply as a result of going about their daily lives.

Mesothelioma is contracted from exposure to asbestos - even the tiniest amount will prove fatal once it's in the lung. However, diagnosis comes only many years after exposure, leaving victims living with a timebomb inside their bodies, of which they may know nothing until they have only a few short months to live. By then, as this appalling and distressing disease takes hold, fighting for compensation may be the last thing on their and their families' minds. But though the risk has been known for decades, and many people contracted the disease from exposure at work, it still proves difficult for many to secure the compensation they deserve.

This year, thankfully, there will be something to celebrate. The Mesothelioma Act, passed with cross -party support earlier this year, brings the chance of payment for their suffering closer for some. But many will remain uncompensated - and the notion that exposure to asbestos is a thing of the past is dangerously wrong.

Today, asbestos lingers in thousands of our buildings: schools, hospitals, transport system, and factories, here and abroad. While it poses no threat if left undisturbed, its widespread presence creates a perpetual and significant risk. Raising awareness of this risk is therefore vital - as is ensuring that we continue to invest in the clinical research that's needed into the treatment and prevention of the disease.

During the Mesothelioma Act's passage through parliament, many MPs and peers called for the government to secure the necessary funding for such research. Everyone  - government, clinicians, victims and their families, the industry itself - agrees that the insurance industry should contribute to this funding. Yet talks to secure it have stalled.   So it again falls to government to take the necessary action to ensure funding is put on a sustainable footing, and that call will be the focus of this year's Action for Mesothelioma Day.

Thousands of individuals who will die of this disease still do not even know they've contracted it. Investing now in the research that could prevent them from an otherwise certain and deeply distressing death is the least they deserve, and as, according to the British Lung Foundation,  the UK has the highest rate of the disease in the world, it is  surely right that we should lead the way. That is why a Labour government will make it our priority to secure the sustainable funding  we need.

Kate Green is Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston and shadow minister for disabled people

Kate Green is Labour MP for Stretford and Umston and was shadow minister for women and equalities before resigning in June 2016.

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.