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Stepdad's Clothes Gave Me Cancer.

Byline: HELEN GABRIEL Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), November 7, 2004

More and more people are falling victim to a cancer caused by asbestos - despite not knowingly coming into contact with the deadly material. HELEN GABRIEL reports on a new passive health scare.

WOMEN and children are falling victim to a killer cancer caused by asbestos - because their husbands and fathers once worked with the deadly substance.

Around 6,000 people are dying every year from mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the lungs. And the figure is expected to rocket by 125 per cent every 12 months for the next decade. The fatal cancer is caused by asbestos fibres which were once widely used to insulate buildings.

But not all the victims are former employees who came into contact with the substance.

Around 300 people a year are contracting mesothelioma domestically, including the wives and children of workers who unwittingly brought the fibres home on their overalls.

Mesothelioma attacks the lining of the lungs and is contracted through contact with asbestos. Victims can develop the condition between 10 and 50 years after initial exposure.

Barry Welch, 32, is the youngest known person in the UK to contract what is being termed 'domestic mesothelioma'.

He lives with his wife, Claire, and three children, Natasha, 11, Samantha, nine, and Letitia, six, in Leicester.

Doctors believe he was exposed to the substance as a child while living with his mum and stepfather, Roger Bugby. Roger had once worked as a scaffolder at the Isle of Grain Power Station in Kent in the 1970s.

At the end of the working day he would return to the family home, his overalls covered in the lethal asbestos dust.

'It seems so unfair that my life will be cut short even though I never knowingly came into contact or worked with asbestos,' says Barry. 'I am an innocent victim.

'I haven't really come to terms with the fact that I am going to die and leave behind my wife and three children because of this dreadful disease.

'When my stepfather used to come home from work every night, my mum would shake his work clothes to get all the asbestos dust out of them.

'It must have been from playing around my mum as a small child that I came into contact with the particles.' Birmingham lung specialist Denise Silvie says victims of 'domestic mesothelioma' often had no idea that they were at risk until they were diagnosed. 'In some cases the wife of someone who was exposed to asbestos through work will have developed the disease purely from washing their husband's overalls, yet the husband will be perfectly healthy,' she explains.

'That can be very difficult for families to deal with. Some people go through terrible feelings of guilt.'

For many employers in the Midlands, asbestos was known as a valuable and versatile resource from the 1950s to the mid-1980s.

Even though the substance had been linked with causing asbestosis in the 1930s, and a link with lung cancer and mesothelioma was established by 1960, working with the insulating material was still seen as an acceptable risk for many.

It was used in construction, household appliances and even brake linings up to 20 years ago when the Government brought in new restrictions.

Yet a recent report showed that asbestos-related diseases are claiming more lives today than road accidents.


Ring Asbestos Diseases UK (ASDK) on 0115 964 1748

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VICTIM: Barry Welch believes that his cancer was caused by contact with clothes worn by stepfather Roger Bugby, below with four year-old Barry; LIFE SENTENCE: Barry Welch with wife Claire and daughters Natasha, Samantha and Letitia