Occupational cancer sufferers back new IOSH campaign

Two people who contracted mesothelioma after exposure to carcinogens at work are backing a new campaign to cut the number of deaths from occupational cancer.

3 November 2014

Keith Tonks and Linda Lakin, both of Leicestershire, have both been struck down by the disease having been exposed to asbestos during their working lives.

Keith and Linda smiling

It is cases such as theirs which have prompted the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) to launch our No Time To Lose (NTTL) campaign today (Monday 3 November).

The drive, backed by business leaders, academics and charity Macmillan Cancer Support, is calling for the government and employers to work together to prevent more people suffering.

Married father-of-three Keith was diagnosed with mesothelioma in February 2014 and told he only has a 50-50 chance of seeing summer 2016, missing out on watching his grandchildren grow up.

The cancer can develop in the tissue covering the lung or abdomen and is often caused by exposure to a work-related carcinogen, such as diesel exhaust fumes, silica dust or asbestos fibres.

Keith, 66, of Braunstone in Leicestershire, was exposed to asbestos while working as a pipe-fitter and welder for companies in the East Midlands between the 1960s and 1980s.

It wasn’t until three decades later that symptoms of mesothelioma began to show. He said: “When a pain hit my chest, I went to the doctor. I said ‘I have a chest pain and I used to work with asbestos’. I was adamant I knew what it was.

Keith had his lung and chest cavity removed along with his diaphragm. But it is a case of buying him some time rather than a cure. He is urging workers to realise the dangers they are putting themselves in.

He added: “I have a spot on my mantelpiece – it’s for a letter from the Queen when I’m 100. It’s no good dreaming, though, I am taking action already and  learning about cancer and how I can influence my body to manage this awful disease, which is now a daily activity.

Linda, 62, of Birstall in Leicestershire, was exposed to asbestos during a two-year stint working for a dry cleaning service in Norfolk in her 20s.

The mother-of-three was diagnosed in February and had major surgery to remove fluid from her lung. This has left her in pain which may last three years – though she has been warned she may not survive that long.

Linda said: “I was floored by the news (of her diagnosis). I thought ‘How can I have that?’ It wasn’t a lifestyle choice, I was earning a living.”

Speaking about the NTTL campaign, she added: “You can’t help those who have been exposed and contracted cancer already, but you can help those who are at risk of exposure.”

Contact Tim Walsh, IOSH Media Manager

[email protected]
+44 (0)116 257 3252
+44 (0)797 660 4715