Your life's work should earn you a comfortable and restful retirement. It shouldn't kill you and rob you of the leisure you spent a lifetime setting aside. But that's what happened to Myring. All he did was get up in the morning and go to work at Sketchley, a hosiery factory on Rugby Road at Hinckley, in southwest Leicestershire, England. From 1939 to 1982 he went to work faithfully every day, working in an environment where the steam pipes were lagged with asbestos, and the steam presses were covered with an asbestos blanket. Even the roof of the factory, made from corrugated asbestos cement sheets, could have released asbestos fibers that led to Mr. Myring's fatal condition.
Recent studies conducted at the Medical University of Graz, Austria concludes that asbestos causes genetic modifications and cell signaling events that resist any mitigation and control through apoptosis and chemotherapy. In other words, once you have it there is little hope. The Austrian study concluded that only a small number of patients-10 percent-survive longer than three years. Myring lasted 15 months, and it was a horrid 15 months at that, says his family. "It was a vile thing, that disease," said his widow Carol, who is 79. Son Rob, 51, put it this way: "My father suffered for 15 months with this, and in some ways I am glad it didn't go on for longer.
"The end was a blessing for him, really."
The trouble with asbestos exposure is that you could have the makings of mesothelioma for years, and not know it. When we say years, we're talking decades here. It is not uncommon for an individual to be fatally exposed to asbestos, but live for 30 years or more without any symptoms whatsoever.
Passengers aboard a Church of Scientology cruise ship, including actor Tom Cruise, could be forgiven for fearing such an eventuality after potentially coming into contact with blue asbestos earlier this month. The vessel, christened 'Freewinds,' was said to be under seal at Curacao after asbestos fibers were found. The ship, age forty years, was recently refurbished, and there is suspicion that passengers may have come in contact with asbestos fibers. The ship is used as a floating education center and for VIP parties. Besides Cruise, who is a senior Scientologist, jazz great Chick Corea and singer Lisa Marie Presley were among the celebrities on board.
While any exposure, no matter how brief to a known carcinogen like asbestos carries risk, prolonged exposure naturally increases that risk. That's what happened to Ken Myring in England, and also to George Shawver from Putnam County, in West Virginia. Shawver, together with his wife, has filed a lawsuit against Union Carbide and 30 other companies, claiming he was exposed to asbestos over a period of 40 years.
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Legal counsel representing the Myring family note that asbestos-related diseases will cause 10,000 deaths a year by 2010, "and will be the biggest industrial killer of all time," says lawyer Nicola Harrison, of Thompsons Solicitors in Nottingham.
"Mesothelioma is a terrible illness caused by employers' disregard for their workers' lives. It is important that we trace Mr. Myring's co-workers, not because compensation will make up for his death, but to ensure that those people who forced him to work in such deadly conditions pay for what they did."