Demanding action over 'working class disease'

PRESSING issues were raised to draw attention to a working class disease which has had a devastating effect on the borough s health record. Council officers, trade unionists and families of people who developed asbestos-related diseases were joined by D

PRESSING issues were raised to draw attention to a "working class disease" which has had a devastating effect on the borough's health record.

Council officers, trade unionists and families of people who developed asbestos-related diseases were joined by Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas to raise awareness on Asbestos Victim Support Day in the Civic Centre last Tuesday (April28).

Asbestos was banned by the government in 1999 but it has left behind a legacy of suffering.

In this borough, many people came into contact with the deadly mineral by working in the Cape Asbestos factory which closed in 1968.

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Jon Cruddas MP is fighting against a House of Lords ruling in 2007 which put a stop on compensation claims from insurers for people suffering from pleural plaques.

He said: "This is about the powerful and the little guy.

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"Everyone who lives in this borough will know someone in their extended family who is affected.

He added: "There's a massive increase of the amount of women who suffer from asbestos-related diseases because they used to wash their husbands' work overalls."

He also said that the PCT had to do more so that GPs could better diagnose asbestos related diseases and added: "It's a working class disease.

"It's about the history of Cape Asbestos and it's about the historical legacy of the borough."

Thousands of people have developed Mesothelioma - a form of cancer caused by exposure to the substance, and pleural plaques, which is a scarring of the lungs that can lead to cancer.

Every year, around 2,000 people from related diseases.

According to figures from the GMB, 23 of the union's 58 members in the Heat & Frost branch, died from pleural plaques, which developed into lung cancer or mesothelioma, between 1999 and 2007.

Tom Jones, of Thompons Solicitors, who make claims for asbestos sufferers, said that the insurers had saved around �1.7billion after as a result of the House of Lords ruling.

Sandra Luxford, 51, said her brother in law had died after being diagnosed with pleural plaques.

She said: "It started with a cough. They found fibres floating around in his lungs.

"He died within a week."

Now she is worried because her husband, who used to work as a floor layer with her brother in law, is beginning to develop similar symptoms.

Edwyn Gillingham, 82, from Leytonstone, worked at Woolwich docks for the Royal Group for 45 years, where he handled asbestos between 1965 and 1970.

He said: "The ships used to come in from South Africa. The whole hatch was full of it.

"I could not see my own workmates down there and we had no face masks.

"We could have asked for a lot of things if we had known."

A few years ago doctors discovered that he suffered from pleural plaques.

His wife, Mary Gillingham, 81, said: "At the time I would not have washed his work clothes if I had known how bad it was."

The council's chief executive, Rob Whiteman, said: "My father worked in an asbestos plant when he was 15.

"They did not give him a face mask and forty years ago he died of an asbestos related disease."

He added: "It's very personal to me because of the misery it causes.

"Years ago, large profitable companies ignored early warning signs.

"It's a disgrace that people are put in peril for that extra penny.

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