One of the UK’s leading lawyers acting for victims of asbestos-related cancer says more and more young people and women are contracting the killer disease.
Geraldine Coombs, who heads Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester-based asbestos team, is representing a 26-year-old woman from Failsworth, near Oldham, who is thought to be the youngest-ever victim of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lung
For years, men who worked in the construction and shipbuilding industries were thought to be at most risk of contracting mesothelioma because of their exposure to asbestos, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s.
The illness takes years to develop but, once diagnosed, patients usually only survive for up to 12 months. It currently kills more than 2,000 people a year.
Geraldine was involved in a number of landmark legal cases at John Pickering and Partners, which she left last year to join Irwin Mitchell.
Today, as thousands of balloons were released from Manchester’s Albert Square to mark Mesothelioma Action Day, Geraldine said: “We are seeing more cases involving indirect exposure to asbestos.
“For example, we are investigating the case of a lady of 26 who has mesothelioma which she believes traces back to the days when she took a short cut to school through a factory yard where asbestos sheets were being cut.
“We are also representing a nurse in her 40s who worked in a Tameside hospital where there was an asbestos removal programe.
“Historically, mesothelioma affected people in their 60s and 70s, but recently we have seen younger victims diagnosed, who were exposed to asbestos in unconventional ways.”
Geraldine took a swipe at insurance companies which, she said, constantly seek to frustrate the compensation process.
“We try to complete cases within the lifetime of the victim, but insurers often do not make admissions of negligence and they look to take cases to trial. It’s upsetting to see what clients go through and how much they suffer, but helping someone who is dying to get financial security for their families is very rewarding.”