A FORMER steelworker has spoken out about his battle with asbestos-related cancer as part of a national campaign raising awareness of the dangers of the deadly dust.
John Pearson, from Wickersley, Rotherham, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January after working in steelworks across South Yorkshire in the 1970s and 1980s.
Before the diagnosis he was a fit and active man - having completed a number of marathons and regularly taking part in road cycling races.
He is also a keen fell walker and loves taking animals from the Rotherham Dog Rescue Centre out for walks.
But now the cancer has taken its toll, preventing him from taking part in many of the activities he loves.
The 57-year-old, who is seeking advice from law firm Irwin Mitchell about the possibility of gaining compensation from his former employers, spoke out about his experiences on Mesothelioma Day yesterday to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos.
He said: “It’s been over 30 years since I was exposed to asbestos, and since then I have continued to work hard and live life to the full with my wife.
“I loved cycling and walking – not only was it enjoyable but it also kept me fit.
“Thanks to my condition I struggle to do any of those things any more.
“Action Mesothelioma Day is very important for raising awareness of asbestos-related diseases. I want to make as many people as possible aware of the dangers of asbestos and the impact it can have on people’s lives.
“After years of living with no effects, the illness can come on very quickly - it’s been a frightening and life-changing experience.”
The widow of a former maintenance joiner who died from mesothelioma also spoke out in support of the awareness day.
Cynthia Willford, whose husband Barry was 70 when he died in August 2009, said: “It’s horrendous to think that people such as Barry were exposed to asbestos every working day without any form of protection, and yet it’s decades after the exposure that the condition finally takes their life.
“Action Mesothelioma Day is important in providing a time for us to remember the loved ones we have lost through work accidents and illness. Hopefully it can draw attention to the issues surrounding asbestos exposure and help provide support for those sufferers who may have been exposed to asbestos in the past.”
Adrian Budgen, asbestos specialist at Irwin Mitchell, called for more awareness of the ‘forgotten victims’ of the disease - including the rapidly increasing number of women sufferers and office workers from sectors not traditionally associated with the condition.
He added: “Asbestos has long been associated with heavy industry but sadly we are seeing an increasing number of people from other sectors - such as health and education - falling victim to diseases like mesothelioma.
“Over the years, as asbestos-containing materials began to deteriorate and crumble, many UK workers were inhaling the lethal fibres as they went about their daily tasks, completely unaware of the dangers they were facing, putting them at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
“The rising numbers of white- collar workers who are going on to suffer from mesothelioma highlights the need for a proper record of which public buildings - whether they are council offices, hospitals or schools - contain asbestos to prevent future, needless tragedies.”