A Peterborough man is asking former workers at the London Brick Company for help after being diagnosed with the lung cancer, mesothelioma, caused by past exposure to asbestos.
Stephen McDonald from London Road, in Laxley, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2015. Mesothelioma is an aggressive and terminal lung cancer caused in the vast majority of cases by asbestos.
Stephen was diagnosed just weeks before he and his partner, Christine, were due to go on a cruise to celebrate his 60th birthday. They had to cancel the trip.
It is believed that Stephen developed the lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos while working for the London Brick Company, within the Norman Cross brickyard, from 1972 to 1980.
Stephen was employed as a labourer and worked in and around the brickyard’s setting shed and kilns. Asbestos was used on the factory site because of its heat resistant and insulating properties.
The setting shed walls were made of asbestos boards and the roof from corrugated asbestos sheets. The asbestos was old and in very poor condition after years of impacts from forklift and dumper trucks.
Dozens of kilns were used to bake the bricks. The roofs of the kilns were corrugated asbestos and asbestos was used to pack-out cavities above the brick arched entrances to the kilns. The kilns would regularly collapse due to the high temperatures and it would take a week to clean up and rebuild.
Stephen says: “Clouds of dust would be created while they shovelled and dumped all of the rubble. When working nearby we would be inhaling all that dust, which must have contained asbestos.
“I wasn’t provided with a mask or personal protective equipment. No-one ever told me about asbestos. No-one warned me that asbestos was dangerous.”
The National Asbestos Helpline and Birchall Blackburn Law are trying to trace former London Brick Company workers to help Stephen and his family make an industrial disease compensation claim to secure justice and the care that Stephen needs.
(The London Brick Company is still a leading British manufacturer of bricks but is now owned by Forterra plc.)
Craig Howell, an industrial disease specialist and partner with Birchall Blackburn Law, says: “Mesothelioma takes decades to develop, which can deny people the justice they deserve. After such a long time it can be difficult to uncover the evidence needed to prove where and when exposure to asbestos dust occurred. If no-one can help us then another hardworking man, who should have been looking forward to a long and happy retirement, will get no justice.
“We need to hear from anyone who worked for the London Brick Company during the 1970s in Peterborough and knows about the presence of asbestos. Especially if they can tell us more about the kiln collapses, the work that followed to clean up, and the materials used to rebuild the kilns.”
Stephen first started to notice the onset of shortness of breath in the autumn of 2015. After an X-ray Stephen was sent straight to A&E and had an operation to drain excess fluid from his lungs and underwent a biopsy procedure. The tests revealed he had mesothelioma.
He says: “I feel extremely tired and exhausted after any physical exertion. I only have to walk a few yards before I have to stop to catch my breath. I suffer from pain in my torso, particularly in my back and chest, and have trouble sleeping.”
Stephen used to be an active man, who loved gardening and DIY, and had no immediate plans to retire before developing the lung cancer.
Jan Garvey, from the National Asbestos Helpline, says: “Mesothelioma is a cruel and aggressive lung cancer. It is devastating a generation of people who have worked hard all their lives and should be looking forward to a long retirement. Not enough is being done by the government and insurance companies to help victims and their families – and we need more funding for research into more effective treatments for mesothelioma.”
The Department of Work and Pensions says that 53,000 people will eventually die from mesothelioma between 2013 and 2037 in the UK. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), more than 2,500 people a year die from mesothelioma. HSE figures show that more than 110 people have died from the asbestos-related lung cancer in Peterborough between 1981 and 2011.
Anyone who knows about the presence of asbestos at the London Brick Company in Peterborough during the 1970s, please call Craig Howell from Birchall Blackburn Law on 01244 684 475 or Jan Garvey at the National Asbestos Helpline on freephone 0800 043 6635. Alternatively, email email@example.com.