Written evidence from Professor Angela Tod on behalf of the Mesothelioma UK Research Centre Sheffield (MURC)


We thank the Work and Pensions Committee for inviting evidence as part of the inquiry into how the Health & Safety Executive manages the continued presence of asbestos in buildings.

The MURC was established in July 2020 to conduct research into the experience of mesothelioma from the perspective of those with a diagnosis and their families. Mesothelioma is a terminal diagnosis with no curative treatment. The main cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Exposure often takes place many years before diagnosis, creating challenges in terms of determining where exposure took place.

Our research mainly involves capturing experience through individual or group interviews, or survey methods. A full overview of our research can be found on our website https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/murc. In this document we draw in the main on evidence from three studies

  1. The Mesothelioma Asbestos Guidance Study (MAGS) – exploring the experience of people working in healthcare who develop mesothelioma

( https://www.mesothelioma.uk.com/report-published-on-military-experiences-of-asbestos-related-cancer/ )

  1. The Gendered Experience of Mesothelioma (GEMS)
  2. The Military Experience of mesothelioma Study (MiMES)

We would like to submit evidence in relation to the following questions:


What are the current risks posed by asbestos in the workplace? Which groups of workers are most at risk?

From the accounts of our research participants, it is clear that there are a wide range of workplaces that can lead to asbestos exposure. Following the paper by Rake et al (2009) focus has been on occupations where people are put at high risk of exposure, such as construction trades, and dockworkers. However, in our studies participants had a more diverse occupational history. This, and other findings, indicate that people working in occupations other than those traditionally seen as high risk can also lead to asbestos exposure. A key issue here is that asbestos related diseases (ARD) such as mesothelioma can occur with a small amount of asbestos exposure. Therefore, working in buildings with asbestos in situ can also create a risk of ARD such as mesothelioma. Examples of evidence from our studies are as follows:


This study explored the experience of healthcare workers with mesothelioma due to exposure in their work. Part of the study involved analysis of data from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to NHS Resolutions asking for information on ‘civil law cases of negligence that have been taken against the NHS with regard to current or former NHS employees who have developed mesothelioma and have sued because they believe it to be due to asbestos exposure at work

This analysis indicated the following


The study also involved individual interviews with healthcare workers with mesothelioma or family members. Analysis of the interview data indicated the following:

I think personally now, it’s ironic, that I’ve dedicated 44 years of my life, and you know, that dedication is what’s killing me now.  It’s ironic really. Source: #1 Nurse


I was a bit angry and upset, but I’ve worked through it now and, you know, I just carry on. Source: #6 Nurse





This study explored the experiences of UK military veterans with mesothelioma following asbestos exposure during their military service. This study involved analysis of national datasets and interviews with UK military veterans with mesothelioma and their family members. The findings indicate the following:

‘I could take you to probably thousands of crown estates properties from airfields to ships, from ships to army training centres, from army training centres to aircraft, stately homes, public buildings, even to the Palace of Westminster itself, which has an acute problem of asbestos.’


This study explored the gendered experience of mesothelioma. This study indicated that:



Selected relevant publications are listed below.

Allmark A, Tod A, Darlison L (2020) Mesothelioma: are nurses being put at risk in the workplace? Nursing Standard 35(12):14-16 https://rcni.com/nursing-standard/features/mesothelioma-are-nurses-being-put-risk-workplace-168506


Ejegi-Memeh S, Robertson S, Taylor B, Tod A. Gender and the experiences of living with mesothelioma: A thematic analysis. European Journal of Oncology Nursing. Vol 52, June 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejon.2021.101966


Ejegi-Memeh S, Darlison L, Moylan A, Tod A, Sherborne V, Warnock C, Taylor B. Living with mesothelioma: A qualitative study of the experiences of male military veterans in the UK. European Journal of Oncology Nursing. Volume 50, February 2021 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejon.2020.101889


Rake et al (2009) Occupational, domestic and environmental mesothelioma risks in the British population: a case-control study Br. J. Canc., 100 (2009), pp. 1175-1183, 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604879


Senek M, Robertson S, Tod A et al. Mesothelioma: exploring gender differences in time to diagnosis, seeking legal advice and occupational risk. Cancer Nursing Practice. 2020 doi: 10.7748/cnp.2020.e1745


Sherborne, V, Seymour, J, Taylor, B, Tod, A. What are the psychological effects of mesothelioma on patients and their carers? A scoping review. PsychoOncology. 2020; 29: 1464– 1473. https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.5454




September 2021