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Mother dies after washing husband's Asbestos-covered work clothes

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Media Release

Published on

The family of a Taree woman who recently died from the deadly asbestos related disease, mesothelioma, after washing her then husband’s work clothes more than 20 years ago has appealed to others in similar situations to have their health checked.

Ms Geraldine Shea, who died on 14 July 2010 in Taree, was exposed to asbestos dust as she washed her then husband, Stephen’s, work clothes between 1977 and 1987.

Stephen worked as a Telecom linesman throughout regional NSW installing and cutting asbestos pits and pipes. He would often come home with his clothes covered with whitish-grey dust and the cuffs of his long pants full of the dust.

Specialist Slater and Gordon asbestos lawyer, Joanne Wade, who fought for compensation for the Ms Shea, said Geraldine was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April this year.

“Tragically, just three months later, she lost her fight,” Ms Wade said.

“During the 1950s, 60s and 70s it was common for wives and their husbands to have no idea of the dangers of asbestos dust on work clothes.

“There were no warnings given by the employees and there were generally no facilities to wash down workers before they came home,” Ms Wade said.

Asbestos-related illnesses can lay dormant for up to 50 years and the symptoms can be mistaken for asthma, chest infection or smoking-related illnesses.

Ms Shea death is typical of the third wave of people coming down with asbestos-related illnesses.

Third wave victims, as they're known, are generally home renovators, have worked in buildings that have undergone renovation containing asbestos or have come into contact with asbestos through washing work clothes.

While Ms Shea’s compensation case was settled in early July before her death for an undisclosed amount her children, Daniel, Natalee and Blake, are calling on other mothers in similar situations to have their health checked.

“The death of our mother should send a very clear message to others of the dangers of asbestos,” Daniel said.

“People should know that no matter what contact they have had with asbestos, whether it is in a mine, working with asbestos products or just going about doing ordinary household jobs the dangers are very real.

“We would like to think our mother’s death might raise the awareness of this deadly disease,” Daniel said.

Slater and Gordon is urging anyone who thinks they may have come in contact with asbestos to lodge their details on the firm’s asbestos register.

“By registering it means that if, in the future, someone is diagnosed with an asbestos related disease then we can move quickly to identify how and where they were exposed. This will help in building up the information and evidence needed if a compensation claim is made,” Ms Wade said.

“The information on the register may also help others who develop an asbestos disease,” she said.

Slater and Gordon conducted the first successful common law asbestos litigation case in 1984 and has acted for thousands of people exposed to and diagnosed with an asbestos related disease.