After asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999 it was assumed that the number of people with an asbestos related disease would reach a peak and then start to decline. This still isn’t happening.
One reason is that asbestos related diseases mostly affect older people. Life expectancy has increased by six years since 1990. That means more people will live long enough to be diagnosed with an asbestos related disease.
Another reason is that doctors are becoming more aware that asbestos has affected women as well as men. Although the number of men diagnosed with an asbestos related disease is beginning to fall, the number of women is rising.
Why else are numbers rising?
There are a number of reasons why this is happening. People are becoming more aware that they could have been exposed to asbestos dust when their parents or partners brought it home from work on their overalls. Women have also been a steadily growing part of the work force since the 1960s. And they have made their way into professions once restricted to men.
The government is still discriminating against women
The Government guidance to decision makers who assess claims for compensation still discriminates against women. For instance, it states that a manager or supervisor going onto the shopfloor might have been exposed to asbestos. But it makes no mention of clerical workers, who were more likely to be female. They also went onto the shopfloor.
The Government guidance lists a number of construction and manufacturing trades where it expects people to have been exposed to asbestos. But, despite ample evidence of exposure to asbestos, it still omits roles, like doctor, nurse and shopworker. In the past these were more likely to include women than the traditional trades on the list.
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