Asbestos - the Suffolk killer

FIGURES today reveal more than 140 people died of asbestos-related diseases in five years in Suffolk.

FIGURES today reveal more than 140 people died of asbestos-related diseases in five years in Suffolk.

In a shocking reality check for the Evening Star's Silent Killer campaign, we can reveal the devastating effects of the lethal substance whose dangers became known far too late.

The campaign was launched in 1997 to highlight deaths related to asbestos and to fight for justice for the victims of asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Today, the Suffolk Primary Care Trust said Office for National Statistic figures show that in five years, three deaths in the county were registered as asbestosis, a chronic, prolonged lung disease, 144 as mesothelioma, a cancer of the cells which cover the surface of internal organs and one as pleural plaques, which can affect lung function.

All are commonly found in patients who were exposed to asbestos dust, mainly in the construction industry.

The asbestosis and pleural plaque deaths were all men. There were 114 mesothelioma deaths in men, and 30 in women. The figures are the latest available and are for 2001 to 2005.

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It works out at an average of 29.6 deaths a year.

It was not until the late 70s and 80s that awareness about asbestos' lethal effects became widespread.

Because symptoms take several years to show, there is now a growing generation of adults who worked through the 40s, 50s and 60s who are getting diagnosed and dying with the associated diseases.

Over the next 15 years, the number of deaths for the two conditions is expected to increase dramatically, peaking at 10,000 nationally in 2020.

In May, the Evening Star featured the story of Edward Anderson, of Thurlow Close, Saxmundham, who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

He worked as an electrician at Sizewell A Nuclear Power Station in the 60s and fell ill in 2005.

He said: “I think there will be lots of cases like mine in the next 20 years or so, and then gradually it will die out.”

n Have you been affected by asbestos? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

A WIDOW is today calling for families to ask more questions about their loved ones' death if they suspect asbestos was involved.

June Thorpe, of Warren Heath, lost her 74-year-old husband Robert in 2005, and believes it was due to exposure to the lethal substance while he was a painter and decorator.

However, it was not registered as the cause of death and Mrs Thorpe now wishes she had asked more questions.

Mrs Thorpe, who had two daughters and a son with her husband, said: “I expect there are lots of families out there who feel the same as I do.

“At the time, we were too worried about my husband and caught up by it to think about asking too many questions.

“We just accepting everything and didn't want to make a fuss.

“We did ask the specialist at the hospital when Robert was alive but he couldn't say whether it asbestos-related or not.

“Now, in retrospect, I wish we had kept on and asked more questions.”

Mr Thorpe's death certificate said he died of a chronic lung disorder. He had been diagnosed with incurable cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis - a disease that causes inflammation and scarring of the alveoli and lung tissue - and ended up on oxygen 24 hours a day.

A pathologist's report said there was “no significant evidence of asbestos exposure”.

Mrs Thorpe, who was married to Mr Thorpe for 50 years, said: “Asbestos is the only thing I can think of. He was a painter and decorator for the whole of his life and must have come into contact with it so often.

“He used to rub down soffits made of asbestos and once, a long time ago, he said it would be a miracle if he didn't get asbestosis.”

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