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REAL LIFE STORIES ON THE EFFECTS OF ASBESTOS AT WORK

Christopher MorganHard hitting personal case studies show the grim reality of asbestos exposure

HSE has published real life stories from trades and maintenance workers and their families who have suffered the devastating effects of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

The case of Christopher Morgan Christopher who tragically died in March 2010 as a result of his exposure to asbestos is typical of the cases piublished.

HSE advise that construction workers should listen to his advice, and pay attention to his warning: protect yourself from this hidden killer.

Together they travelled the world to such far-flung places as India and Mexico, but Christopher Morgan and his partner Jean also shared a completely different experience – the pain and emotional stress of his terminal cancer caused by working with asbestos.

Christopher, a 58-year-old former pipe fitter used to cycle 19 miles to work and back every day, but the once active father of three daughters and grandfather to eight had to resort to sleeping in a chair to avoid the pain he suffered when laying down. Jean, who couldn’t bear to be apart from the man she loved, slept next to him on the sofa.

Christopher could trace the cause of his mesothelioma back to his days as an apprentice in a metals firm in London’s famous jewellery quarter, Hatton Garden.

He breathed in deadly asbestos fibres when breaking the substance from pipes with a hammer and sweeping it up before cutting new asbestos jointing and rope to insulate boilers. He was never told anything about the dangers he faced and was never given any protective equipment.

It was in July 2008 that Christopher first began to suspect that all was not well. A pain in his side led him to his GP and then to hospital. After investigations, ultrasound and biopsies the worst was confirmed. Sadly for Christopher it was no surprise and the start of a family tragedy repeating.

Christopher guessed it was Mesothelioma. “Some of my family have died of it. It’s been like a sword of Damocles. The hardest person to tell was my mother. She knew what it was because her brother died of it.”

According to Jean, Christopher’s condition affected everyone in the family – young and old:

“I don’t think one of his grandsons recognised him because of all the weight he lost. He’s always been jolly, he’s always having a joke, like he’s taken on tigers when we’ve been on safari, but I think they just stared at him and thought ‘he’s not granddad’. They all sort of backed off. I think it was very hard for them to see him like that.”

To some, asbestos is a health risk of times past. This ignorance may be deadly. Any building built or refurbished before 2000 could contain the substance – and it remains a very real threat. Every week, an estimated 20 tradesmen die from this hidden killer, and the numbers are increasing.

Christopher had said, “I think it’s absolutely disgusting that there are people still being exposed to this material. They need to learn what asbestos looks like. If they come across something that looks like it could be asbestos they should report it and not disturb it until they know for sure. It is best to be wrong and live than to take a chance and die.”

Christopher’s warning to tradesmen is personal, stark and pleading:

“I was once like you, fit, healthy and doing what I wanted to. Now look at the state of me, all because I didn’t take asbestos seriously and just saw it as a little bit of dust.

“You may be 17, 18 or any other age, but you’re not immortal and what you do today may have terrible consequences 30 years down the road. 30 or 40 years may seem like a long time, but I can assure you it isn’t. That time goes fast. If you take risks with asbestos you could die of mesothelioma and it is not a nice disease. If you want to live longer and not die then listen to what I’m saying. Take it seriously and don’t expose yourself to it.”

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