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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 11:40 GMT
'I didn't know it was dangerous'
Mike Wise
Wise was not made aware of the dangers of asbestos
The UK and many other developed countries are on the verge of an asbestos disease epidemic, say doctors writing in the British Medical Journal. Mike Wise is a typical example.

Thirty-two years ago a 16-year-old carpenter's apprentice left the building industry to go to university.

Last Friday he was told he is dying. Mike Wise, now 47, was told no further treatment could halt the spread of the "out of control" cancer in his lungs.

He contracted mesothelioma from cutting asbestos sheets for fire doors in his short time as an apprentice in 1972.

Mr Wise says his employer did not make him aware of the dangers of the substance - in spite of regulations introduced in the 1960s.

"It is the only time I ever worked in the building industry," he told BBC News.

"After that I went to university and did other things.

Clouds of asbestos dust were coming off the electric saw and everybody in the workshop got exposed to the dust
Mike Wise

"But in the first year of my apprenticeship the company got a contract to make hundreds of fire doors.

"And as a result we were cutting asbestos sheets in the workshop.

"Clouds of asbestos dust were coming off the electric saw and everybody in the workshop got exposed to the dust.

"This was 1972 so by then it was known asbestos was dangerous.

"But it was not as widely accepted as it is nowadays.

"And as a naive 16-year-old I did not know it was dangerous."

The disease is increasing in frequency. There is nothing we can do now to prevent it in workers exposed to asbestos throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s
Professor Tom Treasure, Guy's Hospital London

Twenty-nine years later Mr Wise, who lives in Hull with his wife, Christine, began waking up in the night covered in sweat and started losing weight.

His GP attributed the symptoms to a thyroid problem and only suspected there may be something wrong with his lungs after Mr Wise had been suffering for more than a year.

"It was quite amusing really," Mr Wise told BBC News.

"I went to the hospital for an X-ray, got taken down to accident and emergency and was seen within two minutes - which was a bit of a give-away."

Since then Mr Wise has had three lots of chemotherapy and the latest drug treatments available.

But on Friday the doctors told him the cancer was still spreading and there was nothing more they could do.

"I am not sure what is going to happen in the next few months," Mr Wise told BBC News.

"But I am philosophical about the whole thing.

"I am very happily married - Christine is an absolute rock and she helps me through my day-to-day existence.

Insurance companies have a huge liability in this area
Mike Wise

"What does concern me though is there is very very little medical research actually happening in the field of mesothelioma at the moment."

After a lengthy legal battle Mr Wise won several hundred thousand pounds in compensation.

And he is calling on the insurance company that made the pay-out to push the industry and the government into working together to fund medical research into mesothelioma.

"Insurance companies have a huge liability in this area," Mr Wise told BBC News.

"They have a vested interest in working with the government to fund medical research in order to mitigate that liability - because if you stop people dying the problem simply goes away."

Unfortunately, though, as Mr Wise accepts, for him it may already be too late.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"The cancer takes at least twenty years to develop and is always fatal"



SEE ALSO:
West 'facing asbestos epidemic'
30 Jan 04  |  Health
Asbestos disease
08 Feb 03  |  A-B


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