Kent, UK—Two victims of the rare, severe cancer known as mesothelioma are backing a British Health and Safety Executive campaign that is publicizing the dangers of asbestos exposure to tradesmen.
Former electrician Jack Rekert, who was diagnosed with this unusual cancer of the lungs’ outer lining two years ago, has undergone 18 weeks’ worth of chemotherapy. Rekert, 62, was exposed to asbestos while working in a factory in the 1980s. Although the chemo has given him some relief, he says the worry of wondering whether his cancer will flare up again in the near future has taken its toll. “It’s put my life on hold,” said Rekert. “I”ll definitely die from this, every day is bonus.” Rekert is among the few mesothelioma sufferers who have a life expectancy beyond two years past the date of diagnosis. In fact, the average patient lives for only 18 months after being given the news that they have this form of cancer. Mesothelioma is an unusual disease, in that it can take decades to develop to the point where it is symptomatic. This means that victims may live with the cancer for years and have no idea. Most often, it has reached advanced stages by the time it is diagnosed, leaving patients’ treatment options limited.
There is currently no cure for mesothelioma. Beverly Towersey, whose husband John died in May 2009 from the cancer, is also standing behind the new HSE campaign to educate current and former workers about the dangers of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials in the workplace. “I just really want to get the message across that tradesmen must be really vigilant about the dangers of asbestos, because it is a killer,” said Towersey, 64. Her husband had worked as an apprentice carpenter, and later as a builder, in the 1960s. Carpenters and builders are among the occupations most at risk for asbestos exposure, because of their employment at close proximity to many asbestos building products. The Heath and Safety Executive Campaign, which is called “Asbestos: The Hidden Killer” is reaching out to carpenters, plumbers, electricians, joiners and others with high risk. Anyone who has worked in a building that was being built, demolished or renovated before 2000 should be aware that they may have been exposed to asbestos, and take the necessary medical precautions. According to the Health and Safety Executive, approximately 20 tradesmen die each week across Britain from mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases.