On 20 July 1982 the ground-breaking documentary “Alice: A Fight For Life” was broadcast. For the first time the human face of the country’s tragic asbestos legacy was clear for all to see. Alice Jefferson a young wife and mother from Yorkshire spoke candidly about her diagnosis of mesothelioma after only a few months of working with asbestos at Cape in Hebden Bridge when she was a teenager.
Fast forward 40 years and whilst so much has changed, in particular the banning of the importation and use of asbestos in this county, there is still sadly thousands of people every year diagnosed with mesothelioma and asbestos related diseases.
In this edition of Airborne we reflect on Alice’s story, the changes that have been implemented over the last 40 years and ask the important question - what still needs to be done to protect future generations from developing asbestos related illnesses?
One of the major changes since the Alice documentary was first aired is the movement of asbestos support groups up and down the country who have formed and been there to support patients and their families at the worst time in their lives. In this edition of Airborne we highlight HASAG Asbestos Disease Support and the amazing work they have done since their inception in 2005. We are proud to be on the HASAG legal panel and work with the group to support those impacted by asbestos across the south.
In this edition we have also highlighted marked differences when it comes to compensation for those who developed mesothelioma compared to those who developed lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure, how schemes such as the Turner and Newall Trust following the company’s bankruptcy sadly led to some victims being undercompensated, but also the development of funds of last resort in Guernsey and Jersey following the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme in England and Wales.
In addition, the specialist lawyers in my team have written about the topics of asbestos in schools, public buildings and homes following the recent Parliamentary Committees advice to the government that a commitment should be made for the safe removal of all asbestos from public buildings in the next 40 years.
We have also chosen to highlight peritoneal mesothelioma and the support available for those who develop the condition. We were delighted to support the recent Mesothelioma UK and HASAG collaboration of the first Peritoneal Mesothelioma Patient and Carer Day which was held in Basingstoke on 22 June 2022.
Planning is in motion by our team for an event which will take place on 29 September 2022 which we hope will bring the entire asbestos community together to pay tribute to Alice Jefferson with the airing of the Alice: A Fight for Life documentary. We hope to reflect on the progress made over the last 40 years in the diagnosis, treatment and support for those with mesothelioma, and to inspire further work on raising awareness of the dangers of asbestos, prevention and removal of the substance from buildings so future generations will not suffer the same plight. We hope to see many of you there at Hebden Bridge to fundraise for asbestos support groups.
Helen Childs, Partner and Head of the Asbestos and Mesothelioma team