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Asbestos work killed my father

07 March 2005 - A grieving daughter today spoke of her family's distress at how her fit and healthy father died painfully and suddenly because of his work with asbestos more than 50 years ago.

An inquest held on Friday recorded a verdict that electrician Robert Shildrake, of Saracen Road, Hellesdon, died aged 70 due to industrial disease.

His daughter, Sandra Humphreys, said that in his final days, the grandfather of four believed it was his work as an apprentice in the early 1950s which caused the malignant mesothelioma that killed him.

Mrs Humphreys, 44 and from Cromer, said: "As an apprentice my dad had to saw up sheets of asbestos for panels that were put behind electric fire places.

"He may have handled asbestos after this but that was when he felt he was most exposed to it."

Mrs Humphreys said that her father spent his whole working life as an electrician for local companies.

She added that she was not blaming her father's employers or looking for compensation but that she was concerned that there are other people who have no idea that they have been affected by this deadly disease.

She said: "People need to realise that asbestos-related illnesses could catch up with them even if it was 40 or 50 years ago that they handled asbestos.

"My father was a wonderful family man who has always been incredibly healthy and had the energy of somebody 20 years younger.

"In 50 years he was probably only off work sick half a dozen times and until September last year still played golf regularly and often went for long walks.

"He had been retired for five years and was enjoying spending time with his family.

"But the malignant mesothelioma took all that away from him. It was such an awful way to go and very distressing for him and for us, his family."

She added that her family, including mother Pauline Shildrake, 69, and brother, Mark Shildrake, 42, were coping well but finding it difficult to accept that Mr Shildrake was no longer there.

She said: "If my father had died of natural causes it may have been more bearable but knowing that he may still be with us today if it wasn't for his work is so tragic."

Mrs Humphreys said her father's illness started with a cough in August last year but was not officially diagnosed as malignant mesothelioma until November 11.

From then on his health went downhill rapidly and he died on December 8.


In the 60's workers began to hear about the dangers of working around asbestos and the devastating effects of a cancer called Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the cells most frequently found along the lining of the lungs is still extremely deadly today.

You may be aware of only a few products that contain asbestos as these occur primarily in industrial environments. Asbestos has excellent thermal insulating properties and is frequently used in coverings for pipes and ceiling tiles and other industrial pre fabricated construction however many other products that also contain hazardous forms of asbestos are roofing felt, pipe wrap, vinyl asbestos floor tile and millboard.

It is when asbestos becomes airborne that your chances of getting an asbestos disease like Mesothelioma are greatly increased.

Mesothelioma diagnoses over the yeats show it tends to occur between 30 to 50 years after encountering asbestos. There are three major forms of Mesothelioma and these are peritoneal Mesothelioma which effects the stomach, pleural Mesothelioma which attacks the lungs and finally pericardial Mesothelioma affects the heart.

Treatments for this serious cancer include surgery to remove cancerous areas plus aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. It is important that people with Mesothelioma seek aggressive treatment as the life expectancy of a Mesothelioma patient may be as little as six months.

Asbestos remains in bodies of 650 train cars used daily

The Asahi Shimbun

07/21/2005 - A total of 650 train carriages containing asbestos as a heat insulator are still used for daily services at Japan Railway companies, but officials said the toxic substance poses no health risks to passengers.

The companies say there is no chance the asbestos in the carriages can be released into the air. But problems can arise when such carriages are dismantled. At least five former officials of the now-defunct Japanese National Railways (JNR) whose work involved scrapping train carriages have died of mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer caused by inhalation of asbestos particles.

The carriages still in use were all made before the mid-1970s when the train lines were operated by the state-run JNR.

All six JR companies that run passenger trains still use asbestos-containing carriages. The firms were created when JNR was privatized in 1987.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) has the largest number-250-of carriages that contain asbestos, followed by West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) with about 200.

Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu) owns 161 such carriages, while Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido) has 21, Shikoku Railway Co. (JR Shikoku) runs 15 and Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) owns two.

The total accounts for about 2 percent of all carriages those companies use, officials said.

They said fire-resistant asbestos was considered an ideal insulator for train cars at the time because the use of burnable materials was banned.

But health risks began to surface about asbestos. By the mid-1970s, glass fiber replaced asbestos as an insulator for train cars, they said.

A JR East official said the company began taking countermeasures for the asbestos-carrying carriages in 1988.

"We plan to scrap about 90 of the remaining 250 carriages by the end of this fiscal year," the official said.

JR companies have contracted companies specializing in disposal work to scrap old carriages since around 1988.

According to the JNR Settlement Headquarters, the five former employees who died of mesothelioma were engaged in train dismantling work before JNR was privatized.

Another former employee has been receiving medical treatment for mesothelioma.

The diseases of the six were considered work-related, and the patient and the five others' bereaved families have received payments under the Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance.

Another man who worked at JR East's train carriage center in Nagano died of mesothelioma. His disease was also recognized as work-related.(IHT/Asahi: July 21,2005)

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