Portsmouth, UK – The family of a former sheet metal worker is still coming to terms with the man’s death from mesothelioma earlier this year. Tom Williamson had no knowledge of being exposed to asbestos at his workplace, but quickly succumbed to the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in a matter of months following his diagnosis.
Williamson’s widow, Betty, is now speaking out about her grief and the events surrounding her husband’s death; she is also giving public thanks to a local charity, Hasag, who assisted and advised her family following Mr. Williamson’s mesothelioma diagnosis.
Mrs. Williamson told medical investigators that her husband had worked at a sheet metal factory 20 years. During that time, neither was aware of the dangers surrounding the job. The company failed to inform Williamson of potential asbestos exposure, and did not provide safety gear to protect him or other workers. Asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer which attacks the lungs and other organs, and claims thousands of lives each year.
“He couldn’t think where he had got it,” Williamson said. “He has never actually worked with it [asbestos]. He was never ever concerned about it.”
Mesothelioma can remain latent and inactive in a person’s body for decades, displaying no signs or symptoms until it has progressed to an incurable stage. Often, people are unaware that they were exposed to asbestos, as in Williamson’s case, and doctors don’t think to look for mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos fibers affect the mesothelium, a membrane that lines the lungs and vital organs. Over time, these fibers interfere with cell development, leading to overproduction and eventually a malignant tumor.
Sheet metal workers and shipbuilding are industries with the highest risk of past exposure to asbestos. Statistics show that more men have died from mesothelioma in Portsmouth, UK, than anywhere else in the region, and that Portsmouth has the sixth-highest death rate in the UK among men for mesothelioma.