A personal perspective from a retired stonemason and silicosis patient.

In this exclusive interview with Trolex, Gordon Sommerville shares his first-hand experience of the dangers of silica exposure and what you can do to protect yourself and others from the dangers of silica dust. 

“The only cure for dusty diseases at the moment is not to let dust get inside the body, which means in order for silica induced diseases to be classed as 100% preventable, awareness of the hazard throughout the exposed population is required.”

Gordon, now a retired stonemason, was diagnosed with silicosis in 2015. He started his career working in the construction industry after leaving school in 1976 and soon became a stonemason and builder to trade. In such an environment, working on projects both large and small throughout his career, dust was everywhere.

“No matter what type of work I was carrying out or who I was working for, daily dust was involved — and lots of it. I did not realise dust was making me ill but during my career there were little clues which should have raised a red flag.”

Gordon’s aim in sharing his story is to inform, educate and highlight the dangers of exposure to silica dust and to give advice to individuals who work in similar industries on how to avoid the issues that he now faces as a result of silicosis. 









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    Staggering lung disease statistics prompt urgent £5 million investment

    New studies from charity ‘Asthma and Lung UK’ (ALUK) found that lung disease deaths in the UK are the highest in Western Europe.

    The staggering statistics have prompted an expanded approach towards research and development of lung diseases from ALUK.

     

    Serious Statistics

    ALUK’s studies show that cases of lung disease related deaths in the UK have been on the rise for the past 20 years.

    It is reported that 500,000 people in the UK died from deaths relating to lung diseases over a seven-year period.

    In 2018 alone, 84,721 respiratory deaths were recorded in the UK.

    The charity has described the state of lung health in the UK as ‘shameful’, stating the need for improved research and development solutions to the problem.

    More than just numbers

    After its relaunch in February, ALUK established a new five-year strategy upon the results of the study.

    Lung diseases are currently the third most common cause of death in the UK and it’s currently costing the NHS £9 billion every year.

    Despite this, lung-related health care is receiving less than 2% of public funding.

    Dispelling the misconceptions

    It is evident that the seriousness of lung problems in relation to other diseases is not taken as seriously, despite what we are seeing from the data.

    A predominant factor in the poor state of the nation’s lung health is that people believe lung conditions aren’t life-threatening. This is a major misconception.

    Through spreading awareness of how ‘shameful’ lung health is in the UK, this misconception can be dispelled.

    ALUK aim to reduce lung disease deaths by 20% by 2027. When making everyone aware of these gruesome statistics, this can become a possibility.

    The end goal is to provide support for everyone effected by all forms of lung disease.

    Research and innovation as a solution

    ALUK’s solution to achieving this goal is through research and innovation.

    Their aim is to expand their research and innovation programme so that £5 million is being invested into relevant research each year.

    With the aim to develop at least three new self-management tools” for 2 million people suffering with lung diseases, ALUK want to make training programmes and essential advice easily accessible to those who need it.

    “By 2027, we will give 80% of people with lung conditions the opportunity to access our network of Breathe Easy support groups” states the ALUK Strategy to 2027.

    With this, the strain on public healthcare is minimised and individuals are able to monitor their personal health through digitalised platforms and shared networks.

    Looking to the future…

    The statistics right now make for harrowing reading and harsh truths.

    However, for ALUK, research and innovation is the solution for the future. By identifying the problem and acknowledging its severity and scale, goals can be achieved.

    Through effective research and innovation lung disease deaths can become a thing of the past, not just in the UK, but worldwide.

    2.12 billion reasons to look after your staff and customers

    A sign of things to come.

    Despite the protests of Johnson and Johnson, who played the indignation card at a “fundamentally flawed trial, grounded in a faulty presentation of the facts.”

    The verdict is “[at] odds with decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer,” they quibble.

    $2.12 billion in damages tells another story.

    That’s what a Missouri court ordered Johnson and Johnson pay to women suffering ovarian cancer caused by asbestos in its baby powder and other talc products. Litigation that looks like just the beginning.

    Not just for Johnson and Johnson, who now face21,800 lawsuits claiming that its talc products cause cancer because of contamination from asbestos, a known carcinogen,’ but also for the many employers the world over who fail to properly protect their workers from preventable disease.

    Preventable disease

    Sarah Jardine, HSE’s chief inspector of construction says: “Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are actually killed in construction accidents.”

    In the UK alone, 14,000 people a year die prematurely from largely preventable disease caused by the inhalation of respirable dust in the workplace.

    Preventable because there’s no excuse for remaining ignorant of the potentially fatal consequences of exposure to dangerous microscopic airborne dust particles.

    If you’re serious about running a business you need to be serious about protecting your people

    While lack of awareness has certainly been a problem in the past, now, with plenty of readily available research, public health messaging and examples of high-profile litigation, there’s simply no reason for companies to ignore their responsibilities,

    Especially following new advances in dust measurement technology.

    So not only is ignorance (still) an illegitimate excuse, with new real-time dust monitoring technology that provides you and your workers with real time and highly accurate dust readings in any working environment, so, too, is blaming a lack of suitable technology.

    Put simply, if you’re serious about running a business you need to be serious about  protecting people from the dangers of dust inhalation that surround them. Serious about both understanding those dangers  and then putting the measures in place to mitigate them.

    And as if the moral obligation wasn’t enough, the commercial implications are enormous, too; as Johnson and Johnson are discovering.

    The cost of complicity

    There’s more to worry about than the obvious bottom line legal costs and compensation. You need to consider the reputation costs in the form of lost business opportunities and even share price, insurance premium hikes, loss of production or reduced output, sickness cover and pay, and the lack of future legal and financial protections. All the many, undesirable and inevitable consequences of being exposed as negligent. The last thing any business needs or wants.

    All you need to know…

    Are you still unclear about the extensive danger of dust? Or do you already realise the danger, want to do something about it but are unsure how real-time dust monitoring technology can help you?

    Either way feel free to get in touch. We’ll tell you the many ways that we help businesses across all sorts of sectors, all over the world. Everything you need to know about protecting your workers from the threat of disease, and your business from the threat of litigation. And all its damaging implications.