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Call to support Islanders suffering from asbestos-related condition

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THE Chief Minister has been urged to ensure that schools and other public buildings are stripped of potentially deadly asbestos.

Chris Keates is the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union and Women Teachers

On average up to eight people were diagnosed with incurable mesothelioma, caused by inhaling asbestos fibres, annually between 2012 and 2016 in Jersey.

And now, to coincide with Action Mesothelioma Day, Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers’ union the NASUWT, has written an open letter to Senator John Le Fondré calling on him to take action.

‘More than 300 UK teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980 in the UK, with the rate still increasing,’ she said.

‘These deaths are normally due to asbestos exposure in schools, which again is entirely preventable.

‘NASUWT members in Jersey have also died of this disease.’

Ms Keates added that there were statutory compensation schemes in place in both France and the UK for those who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, and criticised the States for failing to implement such a measure locally.

‘The NASUWT is deeply concerned that no such scheme exists in Jersey.

‘The union therefore strongly urges the States to take the opportunity presented by Action Mesothelioma Day to announce the introduction of such a scheme, so that those afflicted with this awful disease, through no fault of their own, receive the compensation they rightfully deserve,’ she said.

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In 2014, the widow of a former teacher who died from mesothelioma spoke out, warning Islanders to check immediately if their workplace contained asbestos.

June Summers Shaw, wife of the late Keith Shaw, told the JEP that she thought her husband had contracted the disease following repeated exposure to asbestos at Highlands College, where he taught.

However, Deputy Viscount Advocate Mark Harris, who was leading the inquest, said he was not able to say for definite that the disease had been caused by exposure to the material at the college.

And former construction worker, 68-year-old Micky Bees, who was diagnosed with an asbestos-related lung disease around five years ago, said he thought that many Islanders had yet to realise they had also contracted the disease, describing the current situation as a ‘time bomb’.

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‘I think I got the disease from working at Fort Regent during the 70s. It was like a dust-bowl up there and I can remember working with it and cutting it,’ he said.

‘There is the argument that if it is not disturbed, then it is not a problem but personally, as I have been affected by it, I would like to see no asbestos in Jersey.

‘I believe there are still a lot of people in Jersey who have mesothelioma lying in their bodies, but it has just not come out yet.’

The JEP contacted the States for a comment and is awaiting a response.

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