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New wave of death emerges
Victoria Laurie
February 07, 2005 - WHEN farmer Max Waters was diagnosed last August with mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused lung cancer, he and his wife Angela were at a loss to work out where his exposure had occurred.

Sorting through family albums, they found a 25-year-old picture of him demolishing a farmhouse made from asbestos sheeting.

Another showed Mr Waters in front of a garden fence he had erected from recycled asbestos sheets.

"There was all the evidence in front of us," recalled Mrs Waters, "jagged bits and piles of rubble. And that was the last real contact he'd had."

According to the Asbestos Diseases Society, one in three houses built after World War II were made of asbestos cement fibro sheeting.

In December, a few days before he died, Mr Waters, 60, settled a confidential claim against asbestos manufacturer James Hardie. His case is typical of the new wave of asbestos victims emerging across Australia.

Society spokesman Robert Vojakovich warned the number of victims of incidental exposure was on the rise, while the number of deaths from Western Australia's infamous Wittenoom mine is believed to have peaked.

"This incidental or intermittent exposure, sometimes many years ago, is increasing at around 10per cent a year," he said.

Asbestos exposure can take 40 years to develop into disease and the society was seeing many new cases of people with minor contact with asbestos who have developed an illness.

Ken Fowlie, Slater and Gordon's co-ordinator of asbestos litigation, confirmed that a new category of non-occupational asbestos disease cases was emerging.

Max Waters' death has shocked his home town of Kalannie in Western Australia's wheatbelt, where old buildings and crumbling fences are still common.

"All the houses were made of asbestos, and everyone has knocked a fence down or added an extra room," said Mrs Waters, who also lost her brother-in-law to mesothelioma last April.

"The message is: don't do it yourself, call in the experts if you do want to take a fence down."

Mr Waters' lawyer, Tim Hammond, said other documented cases of exposure suggested even low levels of contact could lead to illness.

In one case, a prison officer, now in his forties, routinely delivered rubbish to an asbestos-riddled tip site 20 years ago. He is now dying of mesothelioma.

Asbestos case leads to fines

February 06, 2005 - State environmental officials have fined the remodeling contractor and owner of the Envoy Condominiums, 2336 S.W. Osage St. in Portland, for mishandling hazardous asbestos during the makeover of the historic apartment building last March.

JRJ Restorations LLC of Portland faces a penalty of $8,400, and The Envoy Condominiums LLC, a penalty of $7,200. Department of Environmental Quality inspectors, responding to a tip from an apartment resident, found cracked vinyl flooring in waste barrels. Testing showed the flooring contained 5 percent to 40 percent asbestos. Asbestos fibers, if inhaled even in small amounts, can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other respiratory diseases.

The department said the property owner did not conduct an asbestos survey before hiring JRJ to remove the flooring and added that JRJ was not licensed to perform asbestos removal. The contractor has appealed. Envoy Condominiums missed the deadline to appeal. Joe Rojas-Burke

Hardie compensation warrior dies

Michael Warner

06 july 2005 - THE Melbourne builder who led a $1.5 billion compensation fight against asbestos giant James Hardie has died.

Stewart Beckworth, 64, died on Tuesday night -- just six months after helping secure the record payout for fellow mesothelioma victims. Mr Beckworth, a Mt Martha father of nine, suffered from asbestos-related lung cancer after decades of exposure to the toxic building material.

In September last year, he became the face of the battle when he courageously told a 15,000-strong city rally about his own terminal illness.

"The building trade is a tough field . . . but when I did it, I didn't expect to be poisoned by the guys who were asking me to buy their products," Mr Beckworth said.

Hours before his death, he was nominated for a Herald Sun Pride of Australia mateship medal for his role in the campaign.

His devastated wife Ginny said she wished James Hardie bosses had been at her husband's bedside to see his gruesome final hours.

"The look of fear in his eyes was shocking," Mrs Beckworth said yesterday.

Two weeks ago the family lost their son Nathan to complications from cystic fibrosis.

Stewart Beckworth was a builder on the Mornington Peninsula for more than 40 years.

Most of his constructions until the late 1970s contained asbestos cement sheeting.

He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January last year and told he had just 16 months to live.

According to the Asbestos Diseases Society of Victoria, Australia had the world's highest per capita use of asbestos products from the 1950s to the 1970s.

James Hardie was Australia's largest asbestos maker.

Last December, the company pledged to compensate the victims of its products for the next 40 years.


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