Ipswich: Victims of Silent Killer urged to fight for cash

IPSWICH: Workers affected by deadly asbestos were today urged to fight for the compensation they deserve – following a Supreme Court decision which could have major implications for Ipswich.

The plea – made by an Ipswich litigation expert – comes after judges ruled families of those who died after exposure to asbestos should be allowed to make insurance claims.

The decision has particular significance in Ipswich, which has a higher than average mesothelioma death rate – largely due to the old Cliff Quay power station where workers regularly came into contact with asbestos.

It also follows the inquests into two more deaths caused by mesothelioma – including a woman who breathed in asbestos dust when she pinned Christmas decorations into ceiling tiles.

Tim Humpage, a partner at Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich, said: “If you are told you have mesothelioma you have between 12 and 18 months to live – that’s the reality of it.

“It’s an unpleasant and painful illness for which there is no cure so I think these people deserve every sympathy and the proper compensation. It’s only right people should have the ability to get proper compensation.”

Latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive show the number of mesothelioma deaths across the UK has increased from 153 in 1968 to 2,321 in 2009, with 80 per cent of the deaths among men.

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Twenty-three of those deaths between 2006 to the end of 2010 were recorded in Ipswich with mesothelioma noted as the cause of death – meaning the town has a higher than normal asbestos death rate.

The Star’s Silent Killer Campaign has worked to highlight the tragedy of these deaths since 1997.

UK Supreme Court judges have now placed insurance liability at the time an employee was exposed to asbestos – not when mesothelioma symptoms appear.

Mr Humpage, who has dealt with up to 40 asbestos-related claims in the past five years, added: “I don’t think it’s indicative of a compensation culture at all.

“This is about the average man going to work to do what everyone would say is the decent thing.

“They were owed a duty of care by their employers, even back in the 1960s and beyond, to ensure they were kept safe at work but their employers did nothing about it. These men and women have nothing to be ashamed of and they are not money-grabbing at all.”

Dozens of former workers at the old Cliff Quay power station were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis – some even had “snowball fights” with the asbestos dust.

It was widely used as a building material during the mid-20th century. According to estimates from the Health and Safety Executive, nearly 50,000 people will die from mesothelioma between 2009 and 2050, with deaths expected to peak in 2015.

Mr Humpage warned asbestos remains across Ipswich.

“Without being alarmist there’s still a lot of asbestos around Ipswich but as long as it’s properly looked after it’s not dangerous,” he added. “When it’s cut, broken or ground fibres are released into the air, then it becomes a health hazard.”

n Have you been affected by asbestos? Call the newsdesk on 01473 324790 or e-mail starnews@archant.co.uk