London, England—A series of anti-asbestos television advertisements has been banned in the UK, because of the use of statistics that have been deemed misleading. The ad states that, “every year there are more people killed by asbestos than in road accidents,” citing deaths from the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma in the total figures.
A complaint filed by the Asbestos Watchdog claimed that the statistics are deceptive, based on assumptions that overstate the danger to laborers of asbestos exposure. The ads were released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a government agency whose website states, “Our job is to prevent death, injury and ill-health to those at work and those affected by work activities.” The HSE came up with their figure by adding the number of deaths attributed to malignant mesothelioma – a cancer that is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos – and then adding that to an estimate of the number of people who died from asbestos-caused lung diseases, including asbestosis, a non-cancerous respiratory illness.
The Advertising Standards Agency is an independent, industry supported council that “applies the advertising codes and upholds standards in all media on behalf of consumers, business and society,” according to their mission statement. Because the figure was based on estimates, it was decided that the information conveyed was misleading. “We concluded that the ads could mislead by presenting as definitive figures which were, in part, based on estimates,” a statement from the group said.
The HSE found that over 4,000 people a year die from asbestos related diseases, whereas road fatalities cause about 3,200 annually. Most of the asbestos deaths can be attributed to mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the protective lining that surrounds the lungs, making breathing difficult and leading to further painful symptoms. As of yet, no cure has been discovered.