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