Asbestos claims could reach £20 billion in future UK cases

The UK should brace itself for a surge in asbestos related diseases which could cost the country up to £20 billion, research by the Actuarial Profession has claimed.

Sweeping aside all views that asbestos is a problem of the past, the study expects the UK insurance industry to face costs of between £4 and £10 billion on up to 200,000 new claims over the next 30 years or so. More than half of this sum would be for mesothelioma – a rare form of cancer which can arise from relatively low exposure to asbestos. It is usually fatal and cases are likely to rise for the next ten years, the report says.

By contrast, other asbestos related diseases, such as asbestosis, are likely to fall due to the declining use of asbestos since the 1970’s.

The predictions are based on data collected from all major insurance companies. Julian Lowe of the Actuarial Profession, who chaired the working party which carried out the new research, said: “Asbestos is certainly not yesterday’s problem – its effects will continue to affect insurance companies and healthcare providers in the West for decades to come.”

Asbestos consumption and manufacture in the developed world has declined over the past 25 years or more, but has continued to expand in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. The Actuarial Profession estimate that more asbestos is being used in Asia now than was consumed at its peak in the USA 30 – 40 years ago.

Mr Lowe said the problems in the developing world were the most appalling aspect of the asbestos story: “Urgent action therefore needs to be taken by the international community to help those nations learn the lessons of Western Europe and North America.”

By David Hopkins

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