Asbestos death toll rises again

TRAGIC deaths from killer building material asbestos continue to blight families across the country.Every day, more and more people die from a cancer brought on by exposure to asbestos many years ago and their families are left devastated by a disease that destroys these once healthy and happy people.

TRAGIC deaths from killer building material asbestos continue to blight families across the country.

Every day, more and more people die from a cancer brought on by exposure to asbestos many years ago and their families are left devastated by a disease that destroys these once healthy and happy people.

The number of asbestos related deaths has risen to 3,500 a year and is forecast to increase to 10,000 by the year 2020. Hundreds of thousands of tons of asbestos currently in buildings still needs to be removed

The Evening Star's Silent Killer Campaign has worked to highlight the tragedy of these deaths since 1997.

On Friday, Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean had the task of investigating yet more deaths resulting from mesothelioma, the cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Once again, Dr Dean had to record verdicts that these people died from industrial disease after unknowingly working surrounded by asbestos, often for years on end.

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During the inquest of Alfred Bartlett, who was 73 when he died at Ipswich Hospital in June, Dr Dean heard he had been exposed to asbestos during his working life.

Mr Bartlett, who lived in Deben Road, Ipswich, had written down details of his career before his death and the inquest heard he had held a number of posts, including time spent building and repairing steam locomotives for British Rail.

Mr Bartlett said he and his colleagues had been given no formal warnings about the dangers of asbestos, but they had been told to tie string around the sleeves of their overalls.

He had also spent time working for the RAF, London Transport, the Ford Motor Company and ended his career as a warehouseman at Felixstowe docks.

Before his death, Mr Bartlett had visited his doctor several times and had been admitted to hospital. Mesothelioma was diagnosed after a biopsy and doctors had concluded Mr Bartlett's death was as a result of exposure to asbestos.

Former Royal Navy electrician Arthur Harris, who was 83 when he died, had also been exposed to the killer substance, the inquest into his death heard.

Mr Harris had spent 24 years in the Navy and during that time had been exposed to asbestos.

Visits to doctors and a series of tests had also revealed Mr Harris, of Holyrood Close, Ipswich had died from mesothelioma.

Mr Harris died at St Elizabeth Hospice on September 7.

The inquest into the death of Irene Smethurst-King heard a report from her daughter Sandra Moore that Mrs King, 87, had worked in both a cotton mill and at a silk manufacturer.

Whilst at the silk factory Mrs King, of Mark Rise, Martlesham Heath, had been responsible for drying silk in front of large open fires.

Although there was no direct evidence that she had been exposed to asbestos, Dr Dean said it was extremely rare for anyone to develop mesothelioma unless they had been exposed.

He said: "On the balance of probability the fact is we have a mesothelioma and we have a disease that is caused more likely than not by asbestos exposure."

Harry Bywater was 83 when he died at the St Elizabeth Hospice in July.

Mr Bywater, of Whitehorse Road, had worked on the reconstruction of houses in post-war Britain and had regularly cut up asbestos sheets by hand.

He had been given radiotherapy before his death and had been treated by specialist doctors.

Dr Dean said there had been evidence of direct exposure to asbestos and once again recorded a verdict of industrial disease.

Former toolsetter William Wenlock had also spent time working in mines, as a pit pony driver and a coal face worker.

When he died at Ipswich Hospital in May he was suffering from mesothelioma.

The inquest heard asbestos fibres had been found in his body during a post-mortem examination.

Mr Wenlock, 91, lived in Charles Adams Close, Leiston before his death.

Once again, Dr Dean said Mr Wenlock's death had been caused industrial disease.

Tragically, the number of inquests that will hear similar stories is set to rise.

Thousands of people were exposed to deadly asbestos between the 1940's and 1970's.

Helen Bucky from the occupational and environmental diseases association in East Anglia said: "The statistics are coming up and it is going to get worse. Many people who started apprenticeships in the 50s and 60s worked with asbestos. The figures are very alarming.

"After diagnosis you have about two years to live, they treat some of it and it prolongs life for a while but you go through an awful lot.

"It is as big a problem in East Anglia as it is anywhere and a lot of it comes from the building trade and painting and decorating. It was even in car brakes so mechanics got it as well.

"We have had about 12 cases in East Anglia so far this year and they are just the ones that really need our help.

"It is people from the age of 40 uwards that seem to be infected and we have one gentleman at the moment who is 48 and has five children. It is not a happy situation.

"These cases won't stop for about 20 years."

The Evening Star will continue it's Silent Killer campaign to ensure these needless deaths do not go unnoticed.

Have you been affected? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

PAULINE Harris discovered asbestos would claim her husband's life on their 61st wedding anniversary.

It was June 2, 2003, more than six months after Arthur Harris had complained of a chest infection.

Doctors had done numerous tests and could find nothing wrong – they even gave Mr Harris a full body scan.

It was only when using a camera to investigate inside Mr Harris' lungs that they discovered a fibre of asbestos.

Mrs Harris, 81, said: "The oncologist came up from Norwich and said sorry you have got mesothelioma and he said it is terminal. Of course it was shock, that is putting it lightly, but they were very good and a lady told us what it would do."

Mr Harris was given regular check ups and each time the fluid in his lungs had increased. He was able to have it drained at St Elizabeth Hospice and spent much of the last 15 months there and at his home in Holyrood Close, Ipswich.

Mrs Harris added: "The last time he went in he was very poorly. There was no pain with it just exhaustion and breathlessness all the time.

"On September 7 they told us to come down to the hospice because he wasn't getting any better. The nurses said he would go and we stayed there with him then. At the end his breath got slower and slower but he was on oxygen.

"He said he wasn't afraid of death just of dying.

"The last 12 months he just got weaker and weaker, he deteriorated and would just sleep all the time."

Mr Harris was exposed to asbestos in his time in the navy.

He was a chief petty officer and is believed to have cut asbestos which was then used to cover pipes.

Mrs Harris said: "Even my brother-in-law, who worked in the engine room, said they made snow balls out of the stuff as it came down. They didn't know."

The family accept no-one is to blame for the death of Mr Harris at the age of 83 and they are grateful they had so many years with him.

They were particularly impressed with Mr Harris' care both on Somersham ward at Ipswich Hospital and at the hospice.

Mrs Harris added: "Everyone did all they could to help and we had a lot of support. I don't think there is anywhere in the country you could get better treatment."

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