VICTIMS of asbestos-related disease have shared their stories in a new book to highlight the devastating impact of the toxic substance.
The book Asbestos and Clydebank details the accounts of former shipbuilders and tradesmen who developed conditions after inhaling fibres at work while others – especially women – tell of how they had no idea how they were exposed to asbestos.
Developed by Clydebank Asbestos Group (CAG) and Digby Brown Solicitors, the two organisations hope the book will raise awareness to improve health and social care around the issue.
CAG reached out to campaigners and people they’ve helped over the years – with some agreeing to share their experiences.
83-year-old Jimmy McFarlane from Bowling in West Dunbartonshire developed pleural plaques after being exposed to asbestos while working as a heating engineer.
He said: “Like the majority of people I never knew about CAG but I was always worried about knowing what to do and I don’t want anyone else to feel lost.
“Asbestos needs to be removed – it’s a secret killer and has to be dealt with to stop people being poisoned and that’s why it was important to take part in this book and get the message out there.”
One female victim, 32-year-old Laura Evans, is one of the youngest mesothelioma patients in Scotland despite having had no direct contact with asbestos.
She said: “It sounds morbid but the reality is, when I die I want to know my story is there so that more people will take notice.
“I actually hope people are a little shocked when they read this book because what happened is shocking. Cancer is not something that goes away – you’re always affected by it and so are the people around you.
“I really hope that asbestos is removed from all public buildings and homes – there’s no asbestos that’s safe so leaving it alone is not an option.”
It is thought Asbestos and Clydebank is the first publication of its kind to gather first-hand accounts of people affected by the substance.
Professor Andrew Waterson, an occupational health and safety expert, spoke in the book about the importance of hearing first-hand accounts, saying: “It’s the lost voices that need to be captured.
“Speaking to real people brings a new dimension to things as that’s where you find where the significance is as it’s probably been neglected.”
Rachel Gallagher, CAG Co-ordinator, said: “We are incredibly humbled by the strength, dignity and passion shown by each person who chose to share their experiences in Asbestos and Clydebank.
“West Dunbartonshire has frequently topped national tables for asbestos-disease, undoubtedly due to past shipbuilding and heavy industry, but it affects all of Scotland.
“For 30 years we have fought for truth and justice but the truth is CAG is needed just as much today as it was in the early 1990s.
“Asbestos use may have been banned in 1999 but it is still in our communities – in the buildings and in asbestos diseases which contributes to a devastating heritage.
“We therefore hope the relevant stakeholders who read the real stories of real people may consider a more strategic and joined up approach to protect future generations.”
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Fraser Simpson, head of Digby Brown’s industrial disease team, said: “The work of CAG is hugely important, from the decades of campaigning work, which is recognised in the book, to the free holistic daily support it provides for hundreds of families.
“The vision for the book was commendable because it rightly – and finally – places the spotlight on real people and their communities to give them the recognition they deserve. So, we were passionate in providing support to turn this vision into a reality.
“Asbestos and Clydebank therefore is not just interesting or informative reading material – it is a vital social document that I hope will be a catalyst for positive action to improve the future.”