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5 July 2024 | Comment | Article by Richard Green

Action Mesothelioma Day | Terry’s story

A patient with a rare form of cancer caused by historic asbestos exposure, has chosen to speak out for the first time to mark Action Mesothelioma Day which takes place on Friday, 5 July 2024. Terry Sparkes was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma – a terminal lung cancer which can only be caused by historic asbestos exposure – in 2023. Terry is revealing his story on Action Mesothelioma Day to raise awareness of the condition and to warn others of the dangers of asbestos exposure.

Terry Sparkes

Terry, who is 69 and lives in Cardiff, spent time working for the Merchant Trading Company in the early 1970s. Terry worked in a workshop where he had to cut up asbestos sheets in preparation for them to be distributed. Huge amounts of dust and debris were generated by this process, and he was exposed to vast amounts of dangerous asbestos.

This came at a time when the building industry had great knowledge of the dangers of asbestos. Publication of a research paper by Newhouse and Thompson in 1965 had been a watershed moment. The paper established that mesothelioma could be caused by light asbestos exposure including impacting those who laundered overalls contaminated with asbestos or who lived close to an asbestos factory. The paper was reported on in a major article by The Sunday Times on 31 October 1965. This led to the introduction of the Asbestos Regulations 1969 which imposed strict on employers to protect their employees.

Despite this, the only protection Mr Sparkes was offered against asbestos exposure was a glass of milk.

Mr Sparkes comments:

“I was devastated to learn of my diagnosis with mesothelioma. I am also extremely angry to learn that my condition was entirely preventable. It’s clear that the Merchant Trading Company knew that allowing me to cut up asbestos sheets was incredibly dangerous to my health. At the time I was only a young boy and simply did as I was told. I had no idea that what I was doing would have such a profound impact on my long-term health. It’s laughable that the only safety measure put in place was to tell me to drink a pint of milk each day which was clearly useless”.

Following Terry’s diagnosis with mesothelioma he instructed specialist law firm Hugh James to pursue a compensation claim against his former employers. As a result of this it has been possible for Terry to obtain compensation from his former employers and their insurers. Terry’s claim recently resolved for a six-figure sum providing Terry and his family with some financial security for the future.

Lucy Strong, specialist asbestos litigation solicitor comments:

“Each year approximately 2,500 people across the UK and approximately 100 in Wales are diagnosed with mesothelioma caused by historic asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, Terry’s story is one which is far too common. Terry’s former employers allowed him to be exposed to asbestos at time when the Asbestos Regulations 1969 were in place, and it was clear that by allowing Terry to cut asbestos insulation boards with no precautions in place that this amounted to negligence. We continue to assist many people like Terry who have sadly been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to the negligence of their former employers”.

Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer, and the prognosis is poor with median survival approximately 9 months. Treatment options in include chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Mesothelioma UK are a national charity who support people suffering with asbestos-related cancer. Mesothelioma UK have a network of specialist nurses who assist people suffering with the condition.

Rebecca Weston-Thomas is the Mesothelioma UK nurse for Wales:

“Sadly, mesothelioma has taken Terry’s health from him. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically include breathlessness and pain. Unfortunately, the prognosis of mesothelioma remains poor although new treatment options including chemotherapy and immunotherapy are being explored and developed all the time. Events such as Action Mesothelioma Day are really important to raise awareness of this devastating and incurable cancer. It is hoped that the day will raise both awareness and funds to support vital research into tacking mesothelioma”.

As part of Terry’s compensation settlement provision has been included for him to receive treatment not available on the NHS funded as part of the claim. This means that such any treatment become available in the future which might be of benefit to Terry he can access this as part of the compensation process.

Lucy adds:

“The prospect of Terry being able to access future treatment which isn’t available on the NHS hopefully offers him some hope. It highlights not only the financial importance of seeking compensation in such circumstances but the real difference the process can make to a patient’s treatment options and potentially life expectancy in certain circumstances”.

Despite asbestos being banned in the UK in 1999 the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma each year continues to exceed 2,500 highlighting the need and importance of days such as Action Mesothelioma Day.

Author bio

Richard Green


Richard is a Partner and Head of the Asbestos Litigation team. Richard specialises in asbestos-related disease claims and has recovered millions of pounds in compensation for his clients.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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