Deaths in Medway from the asbestos disease mesothelioma

Deaths in Medway from the asbestos disease mesothelioma

New government figures on mesothelioma deaths show that the Medway area (including the Medway Towns of Chatham, Gillingham and Rochester) remains in the top 10 for the incidence of deaths from the asbestos killer disease mesothelioma. Medway’s latest annual mesothelioma death rate is just under 8 per 100,000. At a population of 276,000 this works out at 22 deaths from the disease in the Medway area in a year. According to the HSE, this is nearly double the national average of 4.5 deaths per 100,000.


The incidence of mesothelioma deaths in Medway actually fell from last year, but only slightly; from 8.3 to 7.9 per 100,000, putting Medway down to tenth from sixth nationally. Two other asbestos hotspots in the South East, both in Essex, have now slightly overtaken Medway for deaths from this disease; Castle Point (around the Essex coast including Canvey Island) at 9.87 and Brentwood at 8.3. Frankly it is one table where we should not mind Essex being ahead of Kent.


As APIL President Neil Sugarman said, “Areas most affected by a high rate of deaths from mesothelioma are no doubt seeing the effects of past industry where workers were negligently exposed to asbestos. This is despite the risks being well-known since as far back as the 1950s. People went to work and came home with a needless death sentence… The suffering of families affected by mesothelioma demonstrates how important it is that lessons are learned and health and safety in the workplace is respected.”


In the case of the Medway Towns, the high incidence of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease can clearly be linked to the heavy use of asbestos at Chatham dockyards in ship building and repair and in fact over the whole site. However, in addition there was widespread exposure at BP’s Isle of Grain oil refinery, whose pipes were heavily lagged with asbestos, and the asbestos manufacturing factory at British Uralite Higham, just on the edge of the Medway Towns. Add to that a significant number of building tradesmen who made their homes in the Medway Towns; plumbers, electricians, carpenters and laggers, all working with asbestos in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and even 80s. Sadly, it was a recipe for a future epidemic of asbestos-related deaths and diseases and which we are only tasting now. Mesothelioma deaths have increased by over one third in the past 10 years and now run at just over 2,500 nationally. They are expected to remain at this level until at least the end of the decade.


Cancer Research UK list symptoms of mesothelioma as follows:


  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness(fatigue)
  • Sweating and high temperatures
  • A persistent cough
  • Losing weight when not dieting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A hoarse or husky voice


Mesothelioma UK also provide specialist information and support on the disease.


Jeremy Horton specialises in mesothelioma and other asbestos disease compensation claims. If you would like to ask Jeremy a question about an asbestos disease claim please contact him for free advice on 01622 680415 or at

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