THE family of a man who died after years of exposure to asbestos have warned of a “ticking timebomb” as deaths from the disease are expected to peak over the next two years.
Grandfather Larrie Lewington, 65, of Wytham View, Eynsham, died in October last year from an incurable cancer called mesothelioma – after breathing in asbestos during his working life.
An inquest at Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court on Wednesday found Mr Lewington, died from the industrial disease.
His children Rebecca, 31, Jessica, 30, and Benjamin, 21, sister Delia Russell, 68, and brother Richard, 77, described him as a funny family man who kept his humour and dignity until death.
And they say more needs to be done to educate people about the dangers of being exposed to asbestos to prevent more unnecessary deaths.
Rebecca said: “There are so many people who don’t realise how dangerous asbestos is but such a small amount can cause the disease.
“It is important that if you think you have been exposed to it you should contact your doctors because by the time it is diagnosed it is too late, but if you go to your doctors in time they can detect it and there are things they can do to help.
“All the people my dad worked with have now passed away bar one.”
Between 2006 until 2010 across Oxfordshire there were 106 deaths due to mesothelioma – according to the Government’s Office for National Statistics.
And across 24 years in the county – from 1981 to 2005 – 893 people died from the asbestos-related cancer.
A report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that the expected number of mesothelioma cases amongst males is expected to increase to a peak of 2,038 in 2016.
Mr Lewington’s daughter Rebecca said: “We are very angry that my dad lost his life at such a young age due to asbestos exposure which the Government was well aware was dangerous.
“He wanted to see his grandchildren grow up, it is not fair on them – they adored him.
“He was as fit as a fiddle otherwise and lost his life working hard for his family unaware of the dangers of the materials he was handling.”
Mr Lewington, grandfather to Rebecca’s children Callum, 13, Jake, 11, Louis, six, and Summer, two, and Jessica’s children Charlie, seven, and Evie, three, worked for Witney-based Kidlington Insulation from 1973 to 1978. As a thermal insulation engineer he poured bags of the deadly dust-like particle asbestos into a bucket and mixed it with water using his hands.
He was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the Churchill Hospital in Headington – which is where 30 years previously his family say he had been handling asbestos to insulate boiler room pipes.
His children raised £35,000 for alternative treatment in Frankfurt Hospital in Germany after chemotherapy sessions in Oxford did not stop the cancer spreading.
His sister Mrs Russell said: “Those kids fought like mad to keep him alive.”
But an inquest heard he died in October from the cancer.
Assistant coroner Peter Clark said: “A person’s life is not defined by their death and what shines through all the paperwork is clearly a family man who was supported and loved.”
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that most often starts in the covering of the lungs but can also start in the abdomen.
Most cases of it are caused by exposure to asbestos - Cancer Research UK says that nine in 10 men with mesothelioma have been in contact with the mineral.
In its early stages, mesothelioma does not have many symptoms but later they include pain in the lower back or chest, a persistent cough, shortness of breath, a hoarse or husky voice, weight loss, difficulty swallowing, sweating and high temperatures.