Sunday, April 01, 2007

Scary asbestos story

This is very scary. A woman who was on my train is in the News Of The World today talking about her concerns about asbestos in her lungs and her fears of developing cancer after what she breathed in on the Piccadilly train on 7/7 (when the explosion damaged the tunnel walls and enveloped us all in choking clouds of smoke containing god-knows-what.)

When I read the article, I felt absolutely stomach-clenchingly sick; terrified for myself and all the other people on my train, many of whom are my friends and acquaintances.

But I didn't panic and I took a few deep breaths and kept calm. Then I did a bit of research, and called the National Asbestos helpline, left a message, read the KCU archive emails about people saying they'd had coughs and chest infections, and the HPA website.

Hmmm. Media head on. I smell an agenda with the NOTW being all 'concerned' about compensation and running a panicky story. Most 7/7 people I know refuse point -blank to talk to the News of the World. Max Clifford last summer, when I went to him in desperation for help, when he was kindly advising me and other survivors for free as we were being deluged by media requests and I was on the verge of losing it with stress, told us to steer clear of that paper. (Which was more than fine with me, I had refused to talk to the NOTW ever since they sent a brass-necked request to me to please provide a family with attractive kids, where a parent had died on 7/7, for a feel-good Victims Meet Father Christmas courtesy of the News of The World piece. The email was sent to the Kings Cross United survivor contact email address, which I and three other survivors took turns to manage inquiries.

I passed the request round the group and everyone was completely repelled. As if a survivor group was a catalogue where the NOTW could shop for schmaltzy and shlock-horror stories. Yuk. )

Being somewhat hard-bitten and cynical these days, after a year of dealing with media stories and requests, having somehow ended up as everyone's 7/7 contact because of being visible through my blog, I'll say this - that today's asbestos feature strikes me as a way of getting 7/7 survivor/responder stories. I think the NOTW are hoping that people will call the news room, in a panic after reading it. Ker-ist, I nearly did myself, until I got a grip and hit google. And as names and contact details of 7/7 victims are being demanded by editors right now, in voracious anticipation of a big 7/7-related terrorism story which will be running soon, I can quite see why the NOTW is punting this dramatic story, and why their choice of timing.

The News of the World is a highly sensational paper, to put it mildly. And so far all Beverli has are 'fears' - which I hope are unfounded. I wish Beverli well as she has had a dreadful time of it. But I pray that this story is sensationalised rubbish.

I am particularly concerned about this quote...

''An adviser told me nine other people have found tumours of varying sizes on their lungs too. He said they were a first aider, a train driver, two first respondents and some survivors'' [Beverli in NOTW].
This unnamed 'adviser' purports to come from the personal injury lawyers, I think. Tumours? Of varying sizes? Eighteen months after 7/7? That's medically incredibly unlikely.

This all sounds like prize fear-mongering bollocks to me. But I am still going to check. If it is not true, and is an attempt to use Beverli's fears to peddle a shocking story I am going to be furious. Because it is terrifying and irresponsible to panic people like this.

The NOTW commenter 'Mr Angry' is also covering 7/7 compensation ( The NOTW did a 'What About The Victims?' campaign shortly after 7/7 led by Garri Holness, who later fell out of favour with the tabloids when his past criminal conviction was discovered.) Meanwhile, I am taking some reassurance from this, from the Health Protection Agency.
From the Health Protection Agency site

The two major long term health consequences (apart from those resulting from serious blast injuries) reported by the 158 people who completed a detailed follow-up questionnaire are:
- the psychological effects of involvement in the bombings
- hearing problems, especially in those who were close to the explosions

80% of those who took part in the follow-up, including both injured and uninjured survivors, reported emotional upset. 80% of these have received some counselling. Where appropriate, the remainder have been referred to services that specialise in screening for post traumatic stress disorder. Of these injured, the Agency found that one third reported ongoing problems with their hearing. In contrast, none of the uninjured group reported ongoing hearing problems. Ongoing problems with breathing and headaches were reported by 2% of both the injured and uninjured. These results provide reassurance that there are no other long-term health effects.

The Agency has also assessed the possible risk to the public and emergency responders from exposure to airborne particles (dust and fibres), which may have been present in the air after the explosions . The only material released by the blasts to which people may have been exposed was identified as tunnel dust. An analysis of the possible toxicity of this material suggests that the risk it posed to the public and emergency responders was very low.''

Well, either way, I badly want to know what is going on, but as I have a ridiculously busy week ahead, am on deadline and am a few weeks away from my wedding, I wish I had not been passed this article now. Hopefully I will be able to contact someone who knows more in the next few days, as soon as I have a free minute.

UPDATE: The M.D of the National Asbestos Helpline kindly called me today, and I am pleased to say that my instinct were largely correct - and that PLEASE DO NOT WORRY EVERYONE WHO WAS DIRECTLY INVOLVED ON 7/7 AND IS FEELING AFRAID.

Here is Richard's email....


Nice to talk earlier, sorry it was very rushed.

Just dropping you a line to confirm that we've been in dicsussions today with the HPA, the BBC and ITN.

All were given the same information regarding legal rights and safeguards for victims' health:
- Read the HPA report into the enviromental effects for reassurance and further information
- Continue with individual regular check-ups and health screenings
- Keep a personal diary of health conditons, complaints and share this with others
- Keep in regular contact with support networks for shared insights
- Come back to us if a diagnosis is confirmed which the consultant feels is asbestos related

As we discussed, the symptoms for asbestos related conditions can take 10-16 years to show themselves, so there really isn't anymore we can do right now.

We have today given an interview to the BBC advising anyone who is worried to follow the process explained above and not to get overly concerned.

Hope this helps, we have tried very hard to calm things down today, despite the media's best intentions.
Richard Clarke

Managing Director

National Asbestos Helpline, Innospec Park Ellesmere Port, Cheshire CH65 4EY

Thank you so much Richard, I will re-post this at the top of the blog, and send it round KCU.

Deep breaths. Nice, isn't it?

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Blogger sparkydenton said...

Hi, stumbled upon your blog and being an avid reader of the Times, I thought I might post a comment!

Before you read this, it is important to know that I am a student reading politics, not a medical doctor, yet irrespective of this minor detail I press on. I have taken the liberty of imparting a little wikipedia-farmed wisdom to you:

Asbestos poisoning occurs after long-term, heavy exposure, it seems to me that it would be very improbable that you would experience a negative effect after being exposed the one time. If I were you, I'd ignore the vacuous spittle-ridden comments which splutter and froth from the cheaply smudged pages of the NOTW. As it's acronym suggests it's NOTWorth the paper it's crudely printed upon!

Also, I read your piece about your fiancee and the troubles you have had and immediately felt really sorry for you, then I thought that the last thing you'd want was pity, so I stoically and with great admiration, heartily saluted your resolve!

Mark D

April 01, 2007 11:55 pm  
Blogger kobwebby said...

I expect you've already looked but here's some info:

Everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time during their life. Low levels of asbestos are present in the air, water, and soil. However, most people do not become ill from their exposure. People who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material or through substantial environmental contact.

Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos.

Really though for a 1 off exposure you don't really have very much to worry about. I mean people worked with this material every day of their lives for many years down in mines with their ponies and everything without any ill effects...

You have so much to look forward to. Good stuff....

April 02, 2007 12:06 am  
Blogger Henry North London said...

Without knowing exactly what kind of asbestos and other lovely materials were down in the tunnel when you were there I cant really say much.

You were all treated for smoke inhalation and the other injuries you received I imagine.

If you do feel worried get a chest xray every year thats probably the most you can do.

I would say dont worry too much and just enjoy yourself.

The big Easter weekend is coming up and its nice and sunny outside Why worry?

April 02, 2007 12:23 pm  
Blogger xoggoth said...

I wouldn't worry too much. On a previous job I must have breathed enough asbestos to lag a boiler and that was 35 years ago.

I had reason to look this up once, forget why. Do a thorough search on the net and you will find that there is little real evidence that white asbestos, the common sort, is all that dangerous. Blue asbestos is very dangerous, white asbestos was simply ASSUMED to be as dangerous based on no real evidence at all.

April 02, 2007 5:12 pm  
Blogger septicisle. said...

The only reason why Max Clifford told you to steer clear of Screws was that he had a major falling out with the previous editor over one of his clients. I'm unsure of whether the situation's changed now that Coulson is gone.

April 02, 2007 6:35 pm  
Blogger Sir Francis Walsingham said...

As previous comments have pointed out, the danger from asbestos is from repeated exposure to high levels of blue asbestos. To date no one has managed to find evidence that white asbestos is any more dangerous than glass fibre (popoular lagging material).

It is rather unlikely that there would be any blue asbetos in a tube tunnel. White asbestos is just possible.

April 02, 2007 9:27 pm  

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