13 February 2006

Asbestos anguish

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

Asbestos-related deaths in the North have reached a new five-year high, Daily Ireland can reveal.
During 2004, the last year for which statistics are available, 65 people died of asbestosis and mesothelioma – the highest figure recorded since the late 1990s.
The 2004 death toll represents a 15 per cent increase on asbestos-related deaths for the previous year, 2003, when 55 were recorded, and a 33 per cent increase on deaths for 2000, when 43 occurred.
News of the sharp rise in asbestos-related deaths come as Belfast residents prepare to stage a mass protest next week outside the site of a proposed asbestos dump.
Grove Services Group (GSG) wants to establish an asbestos storage plant on Kennedy Way in the west of the city, just yards from a large housing estate, nursery school and business park.
The residents’ protest will take place next Wednesday.
In sensitive company documentation obtained by Daily Ireland before Christmas, GSG admit that there is a high risk of residents living near the dump breathing in cancer-causing asbestos fibres.
There is also a high risk of asbestos escaping from bags being transported to the dump, and a medium risk of the deadly dust escaping during manual handling by plant workers. Despite this, GSG’s plans for the site have won planning permission.
The Department of the Environment (DOE) has also granted planning permission for the development of an asbestos dump at Crosshill Quarry, Co Antrim, despite bitter opposition from residents.
At the end of 2004, residents of Killala, Co Mayo, held a protest march against the opening of a €10 million (£6.88 million) asbestos recycling plant in the area.
With the asbestos issue set to come to the fore again this week, a Belfast solicitor who specialises in asbestos-related cases, spoke of the horrendous way in which victims die.
Michael Hollywood of Higgins, Hollywood and Deazley, told Daily Ireland there is no safe level of exposure.
He said: “Mesothelioma is an appalling condition and it is horrifying to watch someone die from this disease.
“In many cases people can die within a few months of diagnosis, the misery visited upon victims of mesothelioma cannot be over-emphasised. There is no cure for the disease, you can only get treatment to try and reduce the pain.”

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