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Asbestos legacy hangs over architects

The RIBA and RIAS should ensure there is better support for those suffering the legal consequences of asbestos, writes Will Hurst

Mesothelioma, the invariably fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, kills more than 2,000 people a year in Britain, and the number is forecast to rise before peaking at the end of this decade. Given that it can take 40 or 50 years for it to appear following exposure, this terrible disease is largely a tragic legacy of the construction industry of the ’60s and ’70s.

It is also a legacy that is having major legal consequences for architects who practised during that era and are still living, as this week’s story demonstrates. While no one should forget the main victim in the case - former building worker John Miller - and his family, it is also right to question whether two pillars of the profession - former RMJM chairman and president Andrew Derbyshire and former RMJM president Vernon Lee - should have been dragged through such an ordeal around the time of their 90th birthdays, when there was ultimately no case to answer. The RIBA and the RIAS must now ensure that there is better professional support in place for others like them.

will.hurst@emap.com Twitter: @whurst1

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