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Welsh assembly to vote on new Asbestos Bill
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A recent report by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has shown how the Medway towns in Kent have the second highest death rate from asbestos related cancer in England and Wales.
Members of the Welsh assembly will have the opportunity later today to approve a new law which will see businesses and insurers paying the costs of medical treatment for victims of asbestos related diseases.
Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw is behind The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Disease (Wales) Bill. As a former solicitor who spent many years representing asbestos victims he is all too aware of the wide ranging implications of awful asbestos conditions on them.
It is estimated that in Wales every year the NHS spends over £2m providing medical treatment for people with asbestos related conditions. This places additional stress on an already over stretched Welsh NHS facing increasing financial cuts.
If approved the bill would allow the Welsh government to recover this money from the victim’s former employers or insurers in civil cases where legal liability for the asbestos related disease has been established.
The law would also apply to employers outside of Wales if the patient receives treatment from the Welsh NHS.
Mr Antoniw said: "This Bill recognises the tragic legacy and impact of asbestos disease on many Welsh workers and families and recognises the considerable cost to the NHS in Wales, of treating the disease……It is intended that the funds recovered will be used to provide additional assistance to asbestos victims and their families."
Asbestos was hailed as a wonder product for its insulation and fire retardant properties and was widely used in the UK until the late 1980s. It was not until 1999 that a complete UK ban was introduced. Despite this asbestos can still be found in many buildings and properties nationwide.
If inhaled microscopic asbestos fibres can cause serious and debilitating lung conditions including pleural thickening, asbestosis, asbestos related lung cancer and mesothelioma. A feature of asbestos related lung conditions is that they take on average 20-40 years from the date of inhalation to present symptoms.
The outcome of today’s discussions in the Welsh Assembly will be eagerly anticipated by parties on all sides of the debate. If approved the bill could pave the way for a similar scheme in other areas of the UK.
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