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Last Updated: Friday, 22 February 2008, 02:16 GMT
'We didn't know about asbestos risks'
The British Lung Foundation is warning that many tradespeople are unaware of the health risks they face in dealing with asbestos. One former carpenter tells how his work with asbestos led to him and his mother developing incurable cancer.
John Towersey
John was diagnosed with cancer five years ago

John Towersey, 59, from Hextable in Kent, worked as a carpenter on building sites for around 20 years as a young man and used to cut up sheets of asbestos without wearing protective clothing or a mask.

"We didn't know anything about asbestos in the early days and we certainly didn't wear any protective equipment."

He left the carpentry trade and became a property assessor for a local authority.

Then a few years ago, he fell ill.

"In 2003, I started to have trouble breathing and I was sweating a lot. Lying on my right side was also really painful."

He was diagnosed with mesothelioma - asbestos-related cancer caused by breathing in its fibres - in September of that year.

In a tragic twist, his mother was then terminally ill with the same condition, but John had not known he could also be at risk.

"It was only when I was in hospital being tested and I was having trouble breathing that I thought it might be that."

Coroner's ruling

After her death in 2004, a coroner said John's mother had probably developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos when she had washed her son's overalls in the 1960s.

After his initial course of treatment, he has had two relapses - both of which have been treated with chemotherapy.

The illness has affected John's life immensely. He used to walk one-and-a-half miles to the next village but now he struggles to even walk upstairs.

He says he is often in pain and even sneezing or shouting make him sore.

But he added: "I've just been concentrating on living, and enjoying it. I was lucky enough to get early retirement and I've been doing all kinds of things from going on the Eurostar to having tea at the Ritz.

"Also, I'm sure I wouldn't be here now if I hadn't changed my diet - no more red meat and lots of fruit and vegetables - and started using complementary therapies and medicines."

'A silent dust death sentence'
30 Jan 04 |  Scotland
Asbestos disease
08 Feb 03 |  A-B

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