Asbestos death creeps up on victims

Queenslanders who lost loved ones to asbestos poisoning shared their heartbreaking stories at the launch of a state awareness campaign.

Julie and Don Sager had no idea of the danger they were exposing their toddler Adam to when they sanded the walls of their house in the early 1980s.

Their boy ran around sweeping up the dust that was left behind, his parents unaware it contained deadly asbestos.

It was a common material used in thousands of buildings across Australia until the late 1980s.

In his early 20s, Adam felt a sharp pain in his chest and had to go to hospital to have fluid drained from his lungs.

He had malignant mesothelioma, a form of cancer common in people who were exposed to asbestos at work.

It slowly became harder and harder for Adam to breathe, until one night he was rushed to hospital.

His dad remembers telling Adam to keep breathing, but his son closed his eyes.

"I thought `oh ok, that's it,' and then he opened his eyes," Julie said, recalling her son's final moments.

"They were crystal clear, beautiful blue. He looked at Don, and he looked at me, and he smiled at both of us and then he just closed his eyes again."

The Sagers spoke at the launch of Queensland's asbestos plan on Thursday morning.

The scheme includes a hotline, a website and an education program to help people find out if there's asbestos in their homes.

Widow Helena Simpson told AAP outside the launch of how her husband Bill ran his own air-conditioning business.

She remembers him crawling through ceilings and drilling holes in walls, kicking up thick clouds of asbestos dust.

"They used to roll clumps of it into balls and throw it at each other," she said.

One year he began to get thinner, lose his balance and have seizures.

They thought it was emphysema but when the tests came back it was mesothelioma.

Bill Simpson died less than five years later.

Not only did Helena lose her companion, but she now lives with the knowledge that she could die the same way because she had washed his clothes for years.

"I still have to have checks, but I'm ok with it now," she said.

2 min read
Published 3 April 2014 at 2:54pm
Source: AAP