Sir: Quoting the Health and Safety Executive, your report of the asbestos fallout in Birkenhead ("The day a strange snow came down on Birkenhead", 18 May) states that "suspicions of a link between asbestos and lung disease were aired in the 1920s". In fact, the Principal Lady Inspector of Factories had drawn attention to the "evil effects of asbestos dust" in her annual reports of 1898, 1900 and 1906.
The asbestos textile industry was predominantly a female occupation at that time, which may account for the failure to pay sufficient regard to these warnings. A study by Clydeside Action on Asbestos in the 1990s suggests that women - "the forgotten victims" - still face problems in claiming disablement benefit because of the assumption that asbestos-related disease is solely associated with heavy industry (eg, shipyards). So much for learning the lessons of history.
Faculty of Law
University of Southampton