Studies into the prevalence of asbestos-related malignant cancers, mesolthelioma and asbestosis, seem to consistently indicate that the deadly asbestos diseases were extremely rare prior to the increasing industrialised and widespread use of asbestos from the beginning of the 20th century.

However, even as early as the 19th century, isolated cases of mesothelioma began to be reported.
As exposure to asbestos in the workplace increased, a corresponding rise in asbestosis symptoms has also been shown by studies of diagnoses, between 15- 50 years later, as a result of the long latency periods common to the many industrial workers who contracted the deadly disease. Asbestos imports into the UK peaked during the early 1960s, and those workers who handled the mineral at that time – or their spouse/member of family – can track the employment history of exposure responsible for the long-gestating disease.

One UK study found that mesothelioma was responsible for over 10 per cent of all deaths from working with asbestos insulation material.

Often the deliberate withholding of information by employers and thus, a resultant lack of asbestos awareness amongst UK workers in the major asbestos-using industries like shipbuilding, railway engineering, construction and fabrication, has left a harrowing legacy of suffering amongst the many thousands of victims still claiming asbestos compensation today.

Historical research has uncovered further disturbing, malignant mesothelioma mortality rates across the UK between 1968 and 2001, when nearly 200 deaths were reported in the first year of the study, alone. Over the following 33 years, the figures steadily climbed until as recently as 2001, mesothelioma was responsible for more than 1,800 reported deaths.

While research demonstrates that mesothelioma rates did rise proportionally with the increased use of asbestos in commercial industries, investigation of a series of over 2,000 retrospective autopsies between 1883 and 1910, conducted on people who had died prior to the commercial use of asbestos and reported incidence of disease, found that mesothelioma rarely occurred in the absence of asbestos exposure.

Despite a total asbestos ban enforced in the UK, US and subsequently, EU member countries, since around the 1980s, unfortunately, asbestos manufacture and export still continues around the world. Global production had actually increased to meet commercial demands by over 2.1 million tons by the year, 2000 with asbestos-related disease worldwide forecast to rise in the coming decades and a death toll of around 10 million by 2030.