A timebomb of asbestos-related disease is waiting to explode as builders fall victim to its deadly effects, a campaigner said yesterday. Ian McConaghy has suffered from asbestosis for 15 years as a result of a career working with ships including those supplying Royal Navy vessels.
Now, a motion calling on the Scottish Government to set up a centre of excellence for work-related lung disorders will be voted on by Renfrewshire Council. A similar motion will be introduced by MSP Hugh Henry at the Scottish Parliament urging the creation of the centre at the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
Ian, 68, from Johnstone, Renfrewshire, said:
“The shipbuilding era is almost finished now. I am probably one of the last people to contract asbestos from the shipyards. However, the building trade is a ticking timebomb.
Those who worked in shipyards in the 60s have suffered as a result of coming into contact with asbestos. Many are now dead and some wives and mothers who washed their contaminated overalls also succumbed to the disease.”
With so many workers involved in buildings containing asbestos, it is feared a new generation will soon start to fall ill. Ian knows all about the effects of asbestosis, which can take 20-30 years to show itself. This year he has been in hospital four times, gasping for breath and fearing for his life.
He can’t travel by public transport because he can’t walk short distances and is unable to do housework. On bad days, he struggles to walk between his bed and bathroom. When his oxygen levels are “through the floor”, he feels frightened. He added: “You are gasping. You think you will die. You think, is your tea out this time?”
Ian, who is dad to Alan, 42, and grandad to Daniel, 11, served his apprenticeship as a marine engineer in Greenock in the 60s. Most of his time was spent on RFA Resource, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship, which, he said, was “awash” with asbestos. He added:
“I have lost count of how many of my friends died, people I worked alongside, but there were at least a dozen.
I stopped going to funerals because I knew the same thing that killed them will kill me. I could see myself in the coffins.”
Setting up a centre of excellence would, Ian thinks, be a fitting tribute to those killed by asbestos. He said:
“It should be in memory of all those who died after working in shipyards in Troon, Greenock and Glasgow.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said:
“The Respiratory Managed Clinical Networks within NHS boards seek to ensure that services for respiratory conditions meet the needs of their local populations.
We will work with these networks to carefully consider any proposals.”