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Asbestos widow urges sufferers to carry on fight

Asbestos victims battling for compensation have been urged to “never give up” by a widow who has just won substantial compensation after a six-year fight.


The woman, who does not want to be identified, lost her 72-year-old husband to the disease shortly after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma – a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.


He had been exposed to asbestos while performing repairs and maintainance on in the boiler houses at various collieries during the 1950s and while working as a fire fighter for Lancashire Fire Brigade and later Greater Manchester Fire Brigade.


Victoria Elves, from Raleys Solicitors, pursued claims against the former British Coal and the fire service, which were finally settled just a few weeks before they went to court.


She said: “Although his widow did not want to be identified, she wanted to stress that anyone else who has lost someone in circumstances like these should never give up.


“It may have taken nearly six years, but now at least she feels there has been some form of justice delivered – and those responsible for her husband’s death have finally been held to account.”


The case had taken so long to complete because the victim was exposed to asbestos while working for two different employers.


Ms Elves said: “When it came to determining who was to be liable for what degree of asbestos exposure, the investigations and arguments prolonged the case even more.”


The victim started suffering breathing difficulties in June 2001 and was diagnosed following a biopsy in October 2001. During the last few months of his life he could no longer walk upstairs and needed oxygen. He died in September 2002.


During his time at British Coal the victim had to climb onto the lagging around the boilers in order to carry out work inside them, he was also exposed to asbestos dust generated by laggers working in the same area. While working for the fire service he attended several fires at factories where lagging, walls and roofing contained asbestos.


The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) has been campaigning for pleural plaques – a scarring of the lungs caused by asbestos – to be recognised as a medical condition deserving compensation.


The union feels recognition would assist the whole process of getting compensation for asbestos related illnesses.


A UCATT spokesman said this latest case backed its case. He added: “We totally support the sentiment of this woman and the case does relate to our campaign.


“The compensation for pleural plaques is very small, but if it goes on to become mesothelioma the insurer has already been identified, liability has been accepted and the process is much swifter and less painful for the family of the victim.”


Bob Towse, HVCA, said in the past asbestos had been wrongly viewed as a safe building material, but now employers and industry bodies took the issue very seriously.


The HVCA, alongside the ECA, has just helped the Health and Safety Executive develop a new campaign to highlight the dangers of asbestos.


He said: “This is targeted at young people who do not realise the dangers, and small and medium sized enterprises which are perhaps not quite as good at dealing and responding to the asbestos threat.'