Manchester’s Action Mesothelioma Day 2014 

by Hilda Palmer1



It was a fantastic Action on Mesothelioma Day (AMD) event in Manchester's Albert Square today (July 4, 2014)! Despite the rain, hundreds of people came to hear nine local MPs and Lorraine Creech, Mesothelioma Nurse Specialist, speak and see white doves released as a symbol of hope for the future.


The theme for this the 9th AMD, was to demand the insurance companies fund research into treatment and a cure for mesothelioma. Over 9 years the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group has raised over 100,000 for mesothelioma research.

Barbara Eason spoke of her husband Michael’s death and her long involvement in the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group and her passionate support for a mesothelioma cure. Local MPs Debbie Abrahams, Kate Green, Lucy Powell, Lisa Nandy, Mike Kane, Simon Danckuk, spoke in support of the day, and all remembered Paul Goggins MP who sadly died in January and pledged to continue his valiant campaign for mesothelioma sufferers.

MP Andy Burnham Shadow Health Secretary pledged to pursue compensation justice for mesothelioma sufferers and to make funding for research for a mesothelioma cure a reality if Labour is elected next year, and to continue to work for mesothelioma sufferers.


This was followed by a packed meeting in Manchester Town Hall where hundreds heard a moving speech from Alessandro Pugno who comes from Casale Monferrato, Italy about the campaign for justice against the Eternit asbestos factory in his hometown:

“Casale is a beautiful town surrounded by vineyards and gentle hills. It is a deeply human landscape, a garden that has been lovingly taken care of for centuries. A Tolkien landscape really, a sort of garden where you would expect hobbits to live. Yet, when I was a child, I was told that the air we breathed was toxic... My parents said that it was due to a factory with an odd name: ‘Eternit’.

But our particular ‘Mordor’ was not all fire and smoke. It had been abandoned. It remained there, empty, huge and grey. Most of its windows were broken and it was full of dust. Tons and tons of asbestos had been left behind. When the wind was blowing the deadly dust flew and spread over the trees and the grass and the houses. I remember that when we drove by on our bikes, I held my breath. Me and all the other children as well.

But the dust was everywhere: on the roofs, in the courtyards, on the vegetables and the grapes, on the chicken pens, on every inch of our lovely fields. My stepfather died of mesothelioma in 2000. It had meant three long years of suffering, for him, for my mother, and for all the family.

I was a teenager. After that I tried to ignore the tragedy and forget everything down to the very words ‘mesothelioma’, ‘Eternit’, ‘asbestos’. I left Casale as soon as I could – I was 18, but the truth is the idea of dying of mesothelioma remains within me. I know I potentially belong to the casualty statistics. I am just a number in my hometown, we all are: out of a population of 36,000, 2000 people have already died of mesothelioma; every week someone discovers he or she is ill; every week someone dies.

After a 3-year trial, Stephan Schmidheiny, the former owner of the Eternit group was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2013 by the Turin Court of Appeal; he was found guilty of environmental disaster. In the meantime, another criminal trial against Eternit is being prepared: Stephan Schmidheiny is now being sued for mass murder. The same public prosecutor of the first Eternit case believes Schmidheiny is guilty of the intentional murder of two hundred people who died of mesothelioma in the past four years: none of them had ever worked in the factory.”

Lord David Alton then spoke about his role in trying to move improving amendments to the recent Mesothelioma Bill and the fight to make the insurance companies both provide fair compensation to all mesothelioma victims and also to properly fund research into a cure.2 He also said:

“Perhaps the most important thing we have heard today is the pledge given by Andy Burnham that should he be Health Secretary in an incoming Labour Government he would ensure that the insurance industry is required to support mandatory research to develop cures for mesothelioma and that an incoming Government would match that support. That is as welcome as it is important.”



July 4, 2014


1 Hilda Palmer is from the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre.

2 Action Mesothelioma Day 2014. Speech by Lord Alton.



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