Mesothelioma patients call for action on asbestos so “no one suffers like they do”

Mesothelioma sufferers are urging people to protect themselves from asbestos, so they don’t have their lives cut short by the incurable cancer.

Although asbestos was banned in the UK 20 years ago, it still lurks in hundreds of thousands of buildings in Britain – and widespread ignorance is putting millions at risk.

Pictured left to right: Mesothelioma patient Mavis Nye with husband Ray Nye

That concerns Mavis Nye and Liam Bradley. Both have mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos and are determined that others should not suffer.

They will take part in events co-ordinated by Mesothelioma UK to mark Action Mesothelioma Day, this Friday 5 July, to remember those who have been affected by asbestos and to raise awareness and support the drive to prevent exposures.

To support this, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is joining forces with Mesothelioma UK to provide its No Time to Lose – working together to beat occupational cancer campaign pocket cards for nurses, patients and their families to give to people most at risk from asbestos exposure, detailing how they can protect themselves.

I don’t want anyone else to suffer like I have,” said Mavis, who inhaled asbestos fibres when washing her husband’s work clothes. “It really worries me that there is a great deal of complacency, especially among younger people, about asbestos. They think it’s just an old person’s disease, that they don’t have to worry about it.

“Asbestos is present in a huge number of buildings and it really has to be treated with caution because it can kill you.

“If you injure yourself at work, you can see the effects immediately. But if you are exposed to asbestos, it most likely won’t impact on you for a lot of years.

“Do young people who aren’t protecting themselves consider what their life will be like in 20 or 30 years if they are diagnosed with mesothelioma? They need to think about it and make sure they do protect themselves.”

Mavis is due to take part in an Action Mesothelioma Day event in Canterbury. Other events are taking place across the country, including one at Leicester Cathedral.

Among those in attendance will be mesothelioma sufferers, their families and clinical nurse specialists who deal with the effects of this occupational cancer.

One of the speakers will be Liam Bradley, a roofer who was diagnosed with mesothelioma by chance after a fall from height.

He said: “I’m not currently showing any symptoms. They may appear tomorrow, or they may appear in 20 years, I just don’t know. It’s not nice to live with that feeling.

“There is a lot that can be done at all levels to protect people. I don’t want to see anyone suffering from asbestos-related cancers, especially when they are preventable. That is why I’m sharing my story at Leicester Cathedral – to show how asbestos impacts on people’s lives.”

Experts estimate that asbestos is present in hundreds of thousands of buildings constructed before it was banned in 1999, but the exact number is unknown.

It can be found in roofing, spray coatings, lagging, insulating boards and cloth. This means tradespeople like electricians, joiners and roofers are among the most at-risk.

An IOSH-funded survey last year found one in four tradespeople have been exposed to asbestos, while one in three don’t check the asbestos register before starting work on a new site.

Bev Messinger, IOSH Chief Executive, said: “On Action Mesothelioma Day, it is important to come together to remember those whose lives have been lost to this terrible cancer and to continue to raise awareness of the risks posed by exposure to asbestos, and seek solutions.

“All asbestos-related deaths are preventable. Employers and employees both have a role to play, and partners like Mesothelioma UK are vital for this campaign to work.

“I am proud we could adapt our No Time to Lose resources in this way to try to prevent more asbestos exposure cases.”

Liz Darlison, Head of Services at Mesothelioma UK, will be present at the Leicester Cathedral event that the charity is organising.

Liz said: “The UK has the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world, with more than 2,700 people diagnosed each year and sadly this number continues to rise. There is currently no known cure for the disease and prognosis is poor, with only around half of patients living past one year after diagnosis.

“As the national charity, Mesothelioma UK works with a team of Clinical Nurse Specialists based at NHS hospitals across the UK to provide the best treatment and care for patients of this deadly disease.

“However, aligned to this is the need to raise awareness of the dangers of exposure to asbestos. That’s where we work with organisations such as IOSH to help to prevent future cases of mesothelioma. The No Time to Lose pocket cards are a useful way of showing people how to avoid asbestos-exposure risks.”

To download the free No Time to Lose Asbestos resources, visit the resource library.