The British Asbestos Newsletter, Twentieth Anniversary Issue
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first appearance of the British Asbestos Newsletter, edited throughout this period by the indefatigable Laurie Kazan-Allen.The hazards posed by exposure to asbestos dust, particularly in shipbuilding communities and in the engineering and construction industries, have blighted many communities, leading to the creation of many local self-help victim support groups around the country, whose work is chronicled in this Twentieth Anniversary Edition. But, as the trite axiom says, Knowledge is Power, and for many years those suffering from asbestos-related diseases and their supporters have lacked knowledge. Over the past two decades the British Asbestos Newsletter has performed an invaluable role in documenting legal and medical developments in the campaign against asbestos hazards and ensuring that knowledge is disseminated both here and abroad. Indeed, despite being called the British Asbestos Newsletter, there has always been a strong international element to the newsletter.
The Twentieth Anniversary Edition includes a wide range of contributions from voluntary sector campaigners, MPs, lawyers, medical professionals, trade unionists and historians. The legal profession is often unfairly caricatured in the media as only interested in ambulance-chasing, but in this special edition Adrian Budgen of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors reflects on some of the landmark cases in which he has been involved, and High Court Master Stephen Whitaker from the Royal Courts of Justice explains in an interview with the editor how the litigation process has been reformed in a way that might have been unthinkable when the newsletter first appeared. That said, this special issue also highlights how the existence of several separate legal jurisdictions in these Islands has resulted in some differences in approach thus the Scottish response to pleural plaques and the more generous levels of damages paid in Northern Ireland both get a mention. Laurie Kazan-Allen's concluding comments show that even if current asbestos consumption in the United Kingdom is now at an all-time low, the need to maintain and indeed enhance awareness of the hazards associated with asbestos exposure is as strong today as it was when this excellent newsletter began 20 years ago.
May 29, 2010
1Emeritus Professor, School of Law, University of Southampton, President, Society of Legal Scholars.