March 19, 2018

Justice too late for asbestos victim Marian Ciopicz

Carolyn Ciopicz, left, and Marian Ciopicz, right, with their grandson.

Carolyn Ciopicz, left, and Marian Ciopicz, right, with their grandson. Photo: A

As a child, Marian Ciopicz used to play with his friends in piles of asbestos waste behind the now-notorious Wunderlich factory in Sunshine North.

“It was simply a terrific area for a child to play,” Mr Ciopicz told his lawyers in a deathbed statement in 2014.

“We threw handfuls of waste at each other, they exploded on impact, played hide and seek and war games and so on. When playing there it sometimes felt like we were in a snow storm. The air was full of white or grey dust and we were completely covered in it — hair, ears, all over our clothes and so on. It was great fun.”

The Wunderlich factory in McIntyre Road, North Sunshine in 1956.

The Wunderlich factory in McIntyre Road, North Sunshine in 1956. Photo: Supplied

Mr Ciopicz said children regularly played in the area behind the factory, which extended down to the railway line, but was not fenced off.


It’s believed more than 20 people have contracted asbestos-related diseases from exposure to the factory, which operated until 1982. During peak production in the 1950s to the 1970s, clouds of asbestos dust rose above the factory roof, shrouding nearby streets, coating cars and making its way into homes.

According to Brimbank Council the asbestos on the former factory site — now the Westend Market Hotel — was capped and buried, but nearby residents have raised concerns about rabbits digging in the area and disturbing the deadly waste. It says the EPA is working with the current site owners to manage the risks.

After battling asbestosis for two years, Mr Ciopicz, a 69-year-old father of three and grandfather of six, died in October last year. After he died, his widow, Carolyn, kept up his battle for compensation and recognition that his illness had been caused by exposure to the site.

While justice came too late for Mr Ciopicz, on Thursday a Supreme Court jury awarded his family $467,000 in damages, the first asbestos-related payout in Victoria in a decade.

The jury found that the owner and operator of the former Wunderlich factory, Seltsam Pty Ltd, had negligently allowed Marian Copicz’s exposure to asbestos dust and fibres.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Michael Magazanik said the company had neglected to put up signs warning neighbours of the dangers of the site, or properly fence the McIntyre Road factory.

The jury was told that trucks leaving the factory spilled asbestos dust over local roads, and that fans inside the factory blew asbestos fibres into the air above the factory.

Silvio Comin, who worked at the Wunderlich factory, told the trial there was so much asbestos waste piled in the backyard behind the factory that he had to wear sunglasses to cope with the glare.

He said that dust at times escaped four to five metres into the air above the factory and when it was windy, it was “just like a snowstorm”.

Mr Magazanik said the family’s case had not been about money, but recognition.

“Most of all, this case is about recognition that this factory had caused their husband’s, father’s, grandfather’s death. They only wanted proper recognition. They wanted justice.”

In a statement released by her lawyers, Mrs Ciopicz spoke of her husband and family’s determination to get justice.

“Marian would have wanted me to finish what he started,” she said.

“Marian was a brave man who fought his illness to the very end. If it weren’t for that asbestos factory and its disgraceful pollution we would still have him here.

“Wunderlich let little children use its toxic dump as a playground. That is unbelievable. And so is the fact that they forced us to trial to get justice for Marian.”

Slater and Gordon says it has had dozens of calls from people concerned about their exposure to the site. It is the first asbestosis legal claim to run to verdict in Victoria in a decade. Previous cases have settled out of court.

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Justice too late for asbestos victim Marian Ciopicz

Insurer Claims Asbestos Fraud Tainted Pittsburgh Corning Bankruptcy

An insurer that was required to help fund the $3 billion bankruptcy of Pittsburgh Corning Corning has filed court papers seeking the case to be reopened, saying “pervasive fraudulent conduct” by asbestos plaintiff lawyers tainted the proceedings.

The filing by Everest Re and its Mt. McKinley Insurance unit follows the opening of millions of pages of documents in the Garlock Sealing Technologies bankruptcy, which revealed how lawyers representing asbestos plaintiffs deliberately delayed filing claims against bankrupt companies until they had completed cases against solvent ones, in order to avoid cluttering the record with potential evidence of exposure to other firms’ products.

Everest is among the insurers ordered to pay $1.7 billion into the bankruptcy trust formed to settle claims against Pittsburgh Corning, a joint venture of PPG Industries PPG Industries and Corning that made asbestos insulation widely used in ships, refineries and other industrial settings. A judge approved the bankruptcy plan in 2013 and last year a federal district court judge rejected Everest’s challenge to the plan.

Everest’s claims mirror the findings of the bankruptcy judge who slashed Garlock’s estimated asbestos liability from $1.3 billion to $125 million last year after a detailed examination of 15 claims by several different law firms revealed every single one had withheld information about alternative exposures in order to mount a stronger case against Garlock. In that case, Judge George R. Hodges said the evidence suggested a process “infected by the manipulation of exposure evidence by plaintiffs and their lawyers.”

In its filing, Everest accuses several law firms by name of manipulating or hiding evidence including Waters Waters & Kraus of Dallas, New York’s Belluck & Fox Fox, and Motley Rice, the South Carolina firm most famous for helping to engineer the $200 billion master tobacco settlement with state attorneys general in 1998. Some of those same firms are being sued by Garlock for civil racketeering for allegedly withholding evidence to drive up settlement values.

The lawyers say the accusations against them are baseless. Under the terms of most bankruptcy trusts, which are set up and overseen by plaintiff lawyers, evidence of asbestos exposure can be as simple as a work history at a site where asbestos was known to be used. They say companies like Garlock made a business decision to settle lawsuits, frequently in bulk, in order to avoid the cost of litigation. It’s not the job of plaintiff lawyers to help them obtain evidence to reduce the value of those claims, those lawyers say; if manufacturers wanted evidence of other exposures, they could have questioned coworkers or used shipping records and other documents to show the presence of insulation, for example, which most independent medical experts say is far more dangerous than other forms of the mineral.

Garlock was able to question some of the lawyers under oath, however, and got revealing admissions about how lawyers delayed filing trust claims until after they’d concluded cases against solvent companies. In its filing, Everest cites a few examples, including that of Robert Treggett, a Waters & Kraus client who won a $24 million jury verdict against Garlock after a trial in which his attorneys repeatedly deflected questions about whether Treggett had been exposed to dangerous Unibestos insulation.

Garlock “didn’t bring proof that there was Unibestos on that ship. They couldn’t. It’s not true,” Treggett’s attorney said in closing arguments, and he was able to keep Unibestos off the jury form. Yet Treggett filed a claim in the PPG bankruptcy, attesting to the same exposure he’d denied at trial.

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Insurer Claims Asbestos Fraud Tainted Pittsburgh Corning Bankruptcy

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) Praises Senate for Passing the Bipartisan 11th Annual "National …


The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which combines education, advocacy, and community to prevent exposure and ensure justice for asbestos victims, today praised the Senate for the passage of a resolution establishing the Eleventh Annual “National Asbestos Awareness Week.” This important educational week raises public awareness about the prevalence of asbestos-related diseases and the dangers of asbestos exposure and coincides with the international educational campaign – Global Asbestos Awareness Week. The Senate Resolution is led by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and cosponsors – Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Harry Reid (D-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Despite its known dangers, asbestos remains legal and lethal in the USA and imports continue. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung, gastrointestinal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers; as well as non-malignant lung and pleural disorders. The World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 workers around the world will die every year of an asbestos-related disease, equaling 300 deaths per day.

Linda Reinstein, President and Co-Founder of ADAO, expressed her gratitude commenting: “On behalf of ADAO, I would like to thank Senator Markey, Co-Sponsors, and full Senate for unanimously passing the 11th Annual ‘National Asbestos Awareness Week’ Resolution. We are extremely pleased to have such strong bipartisan backing of this critical resolution once again so that we can continue our concerted efforts to educate the public on the dangers of asbestos and build a legacy of hope for victims of asbestos each year.” She continued, “Most Americans can’t identify asbestos or manage the risk associated with repairs, renovation, construction, or disasters. The powerful 15 facts outlined in the resolution underscore the dangers of asbestos. Since 1900, the USA has consumed 31 million metric tons of asbestos, which has caused one of the largest man-made disasters. Each year, 10,000 Americans die from preventable asbestos-caused diseases. We are hopeful and encouraged by efforts to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) from 1976 that has failed to ban asbestos and protect Americans from nearly 84,000 chemicals that have been grandfathered into commerce.”

“My decision to lead the sponsorship of this resolution was an easy one to make as I firmly believe that the key to ending asbestos related deaths is education and prevention and I applaud ADAO for its work to help further this important goal,” stated Senator Edward Markey. “The establishment of the Eleventh Annual Asbestos Awareness Week comes on the heels of my co-introduction, with Senator Barbara Boxer, of another important piece of legislation – the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act, S. 725 – which seeks to protect children and communities from the dangers of toxic chemicals and specifically calls for a ban on asbestos. I remain enormously encouraged by the bipartisan efforts taking place to end exposures to toxic substances like asbestos.”

Senator Barbara Boxer said: “Asbestos is one of the most dangerous substances known to humankind – it takes 10,000 lives a year. National Asbestos Awareness Week is an important reminder of why we need to fight to ensure that our families and children are protected from this lethal hazard. That is why Senator Markey and I recently introduced S. 725, the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act, which specifically addresses the threat posed by asbestos.”

ADAO has worked with members of the Senate since its founding in 2004 to unanimously pass annual asbestos awareness resolutions and has secured three U.S. Surgeon General asbestos statements in 20092013, and 2014 educating Americans about the dangers of asbestos and steps to prevent exposure. A copy of the resolution can be found here.

ADAO will hold its 11th Annual Asbestos Awareness Conference on April 17 – 19, 2015, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. More than 40 renowned medical experts and asbestos victims from ten countries will speak on the latest advancements in asbestos disease prevention, treatment for mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases, and global ban asbestos advocacy. To register for ADAO’s 2015 conference, click here.

About the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was founded by asbestos victims and their families in 2004. ADAO is the largest non-profit in the U.S. dedicated to providing asbestos victims and concerned citizens with a united voice through our education, advocacy, and community initiatives. ADAO seeks to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure, advocate for an asbestos ban, and protect asbestos victims’ civil rights. For more information, visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org. ADAO, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, does not make legal referrals.


Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)

Kim Cecchini

Media Relations



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Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) Praises Senate for Passing the Bipartisan 11th Annual "National …

Council agrees pay-out after school cleaner's asbestos death

A COUNCIL says it is managing and monitoring asbestos in its schools, after it agreed to pay compensation for the death of a cleaner following exposure to the deadly fibres.

Durham County Council says it is meeting its legal responsibilities on the now-banned material, which was in common use until the 1970s, despite having admitted liability and agreed to pay out to Alan Hamilton over the death of his wife Laura from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in June 2011.

Mrs Hamilton worked as a cleaner at Belmont Comprehensive School, Durham, in the mid-1980s, when industrial illness lawyer Philip Thompson, who represents her husband, says not only was there asbestos present, but large amounts of brown asbestos was damaged and therefore likely to give off deadly loose fibres.

The out-of-court settlement, of an undisclosed sum, was reached following a three-year legal battle.

Mr Thompson, of Thomson and Co Solicitors, said: “We are delighted to have settled this claim.

“Our client has been determined to prove the extent of asbestos exposure that took place at the school at the time and we had extensive evidence to prove that exposure had taken place.

“Nothing will ever bring back Mrs Hamilton, but this decision will give Mr Hamilton some degree of closure.”

Sean Durran, the council’s senior asbestos officer, said: “We have a comprehensive asbestos management policy and system in place for all council premises, including schools.

“This ensures that asbestos containing materials are managed and monitored in accordance with legal responsibilities.”

Asbestos was commonly used in fireproofing and thermal insulation during the 1960s and 1970s and only banned in the UK in 1999.

Recent reports suggest it is still present in nearly 86 per cent of UK schools.

The Health and Safety Executive says it is “endemic”; and removing it all would cost billions and take decades.

Undisturbed, it can be managed safely; but pressure is growing for the Government to do more.

Mesothelioma claims 2,500 lives in the UK every year – more than the country’s roads – with 300 of those deaths attributed to schools.

Nearly 300 teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980, including 158 in the last decade, and the rate is increasing – from three in 1980 to 19 in 2012.

The Government is producing new guidelines on managing asbestos in schools and continuing to fund its removal “where appropriate”.

Mr Thompson said: “We are reaching the stage where instances of people who have worked in schools, or who have attended schools as pupils, are contracting asbestos related illnesses with increasing frequency, and the Government is rightly under increasing pressure to address the matter.”

He added: “While cases of this kind will never be as widespread as those we saw from shipyards in the region, they are certainly growing more frequent – and people will want reassurance that there is no ongoing danger from asbestos in schools.”

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Council agrees pay-out after school cleaner's asbestos death

Asbestos found in Saybrook dining hall

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Asbestos found in Saybrook dining hall

UK health and safety chiefs hit back in asbestos app row

An asbestos removers’ trade group had criticised the HSEs new Beware Asbestos app, but now the authority has moved to counter criticism

Health and safety chiefs have hit back at claims a new online advice service for North East workers could put people at risk of asbestosis and mesothelioma.

The Beware Asbestos app was attacked by the United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association which said untrained people may be encouraged to try and remove the potentially deadly material themselves.

Now the Health and Safety Executive have moved to counter the criticism, with a spokesman saying the authority was dismayed by the reaction to the campaign, which had won the backing of former Newcastle United defender Stuart Pearce.

“HSE is surprised and disappointed that UKATA appears to be arguing for the removal of free advice aimed at those who might otherwise remain unaware of the risks they face with regards to asbestos,” a spokesman said.

“HSE’s Beware Asbestos campaign is aimed at, and reaching, thousands of trades people and workers who undertake jobs on a daily basis that intentionally or unintentionally disturb asbestos.

“Many of these workers are ignorant of the risks they face when they carry out common tasks such as drilling holes in textured ceilings and replacing old panels around baths.

“The web app takes already existing advice on how to do these tasks safely and presents it in an easy to understand way that workers can carry around with them. “The web app is very clear in stating what jobs tradespeople must not do, and indeed helps them to find and contact licensed asbestos contractors in their area who can do those jobs for them.

“While commercially available training courses, such as those provided by UKATA’s members, play an important part in educating workers on what they must do, it is also vital that as many workers as possible know about the risk they face from asbestos and of the simple measures they can follow to protect themselves.”

Around 2,100 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year and it is almost always fatal, with most of those affected usually dying within 12 months of diagnosis.

The North East – particularly Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Hartlepool – is a blackspot for asbestos-related diseases, as it was used in shipbuilding, construction and the automotive industry.

A ‘standardised mortality ratio’ is used to identify blackspots, where a figure of 100 would be the expected number of deaths, given the age of the population. But in North Tyneside the figure is much higher, at 309; in South Tyneside it is 303; across the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County the figure is 235; and in the North East it is 170.

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UK health and safety chiefs hit back in asbestos app row

EARTH Magazine: Asbestos found in Nevada and Arizona

Alexandria, Va. — In 2011, geologists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, began discovering asbestos where none should be — in granite rocks with a geologic history not previously known to produce asbestos.

The discoveries, in Clark County in southern Nevada and across the border in northwestern Arizona, suggest that asbestos may be more widespread than previously thought; they also raise questions about the potential health hazards of naturally occurring asbestos (NOA).

In 2012, an epidemiologist analyzing cancer data from Clark County found a higher incidence than expected of mesothelioma — a fatal cancer of the lining of the chest cavity that is caused by inhalation of asbestos. In response, geologists have discovered a geologically unexpected deposit of asbestos that might be the source. Disagreements on process between the scientists and the state have prevented the traditional publishing of those findings.

In Nevada, where some popular off-road recreational vehicle areas cross through these asbestos-bearing formations, the planned construction of the new Boulder City Bypass has spurred debate over how much asbestos is getting into the air, and what that means for public health.


Read more about the discovery, geology, and potential health hazards of the new asbestos deposits in the March issue of EARTH magazine

For more stories about the science of our planet, check out EARTH magazine online or subscribe at http://www.earthmagazine.org. The February issue, now available on the digital newsstand, features stories on new tracers that can identify fracking fluids in the environment, a stegosaurus’ deadly battle with an allosaurus, and a geological and historical exploration of the rocks, reefs and beaches of Bermuda, plus much, much more.

Keep up to date with the latest happenings in Earth, energy and environment news with EARTH magazine online at: http://www.earthmagazine.org/. Published by the American Geosciences Institute, EARTH is your source for the science behind the headlines.

The American Geosciences Institute is a nonprofit federation of 50 geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society’s use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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EARTH Magazine: Asbestos found in Nevada and Arizona

Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

The demolition of Mr Fluffy asbestos homes across Canberra is expected to get under way after June this year with more than half already acquired by the ACT government.

Acting Chief Minister Simon Corbell announced on Friday more than half of all homeowners had accepted offers made through the buyback program, four months before the scheme closes.

Already 511 offers have been accepted from the 1021 affected properties in the ACT.

Mr Corbell said the latest results showed many affected homeowners were taking the opportunity to move on to another property.


“I encourage homeowners who are still considering whether or not to enter the buyback program to discuss their individual circumstances with the Asbestos Response Taskforce around what support can be provided,” he said in a statement.

The government now owns 131 properties and is overseeing security and maintenance.

A pilot demolition program of a small number of affected properties will start in late March to confirm procurement, demolition and communications processes.

Two of the properties included in the pilot will be public housing.

“The Mr Fluffy response is not only an ACT government, but an ACT community response,” Mr Corbell said.

“It is an issue affecting 58 suburbs across the territory and has a cost to our community of at least $400 million, even after the resale of remediated blocks. It is, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the ACT for years to come.”

This week Chief Minister Andrew Barr said some compulsory acquisitions could be required if affected homeowners decided not to join the buyback scheme before June 30.

He warned homeowners they would not receive a better offer as a result of not signing up.

Mr Corbell said the taskforce would be working closely with the community ahead of the demolition program to ensure safety and security.

“Reducing the impact to the community through efficient scheduling of demolition works will also be a paramount consideration,” he said.

Tenders for the demolitions are being finalised, a spokeswoman for the Asbestos Taskforce said last week.

The government has confirmed it owns affected houses in the following suburbs: Forrest, Ainslie, Downer, Griffith, Hackett, Narrabundah, O’Connor, Watson, Yarralumla, Kambah, Wanniassa, Chapman, Chifley, Curtin, Duffy, Farrer, Fisher, Garran, Holder, Hughes, Lyons, Mawson, Pearce, Rivett, Stirling, Torrens, Waramanga, Weston, Aranda, Charnwood, Cook, Evatt, Flynn, Giralang, Higgins, Holt, Latham, Macgregor, Macquarie, Melba, Page, Scullin, Spence, Weetangera.

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Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

Implants 'as dangerous as asbestos'

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Implants 'as dangerous as asbestos'

Family of asbestos victim exposed at Glasgow carpet factory appeal to former colleagues for help

Frances Hamilton was 75 when she died in May 2014, not long after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The incurable disease is a form of cancer which attacks the lining of the lungs, caused by inhaling asbestos dust and fibres decades ago.

Before her death, Ms Hamilton told lawyers acting in her case that she believed she was exposed to the deadly substance while working at the Templeton carpet factory in Bridgeton, Glasgow, from the late 1950s to the mid-60s. The factory, then run by James Templeton and Company, had been built 1892 and was at one time the largest carpet manufacturer in the world.

She later worked with her mother, who also died of mesothelioma, at Wrights Insulation in 1967 where were exposed to asbestos while sewing boiler covers for steam locomotive engines.

Her son, Mark MacLellan, 48, has instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Scotland to investigate the conditions that his mother was exposed to and what measures, if any, were put in place to prevent workers being exposed to asbestos.

Ms Hamilton told her family she worked in an “extremely dusty” environment and was provided with no overalls or gloves to protect her from coming into contact with the hazardous substance.

Laura McCallum, a specialist asbestos lawyer at the Glasgow legal firm, said: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive disease and causes a great deal of pain and suffering for victims like Frances.

“Employers knew the risks of asbestos when she began working in the 1950s and should have provided her with protection to prevent exposure to the dust.

“We would like to hear from employees who worked at the Templeton carpet factory and mill between 1955 and 1975 on the working conditions that they were exposed to and what protective equipment, if any, was provided by their employers.

“This information will be crucial in helping Frances’ family secure justice for their mother and grandmother and we hope anyone who worked with Frances will come forward with the information we need to ensure those responsible for her exposure to asbestos are held to account.”

Another former employee, Helen Winning, who worked at the factory from 1964 until the early 1980s, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2006. Her mother, who had been a weaver at Templetons, also died from mesothelioma in 1994.

The factory, which overlooks Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace, was designed by the Scottish architect, William Leiper, and inspired by the medieval Palazzo Ducale in Venice.

It was blighted by tragedy soon after opening when a factory wall collapsed during high winds in 1889, trapping 100 women in the weaving workshop and killing 29.

A fire the following year claimed more lives.

In 1981, James Templeton and Co. merged with A F Stoddard and Henry Widnell & Stewart to form Elderslie-based Stoddard Carpets, which eventually went bust in 2005. The former factory has now been converted into flats and is also home to the West Brewery.

However, the lawyers believe they would be able to sue the factory’s former insurers, which provided cover to the factory from 1950 to 1970.

Payouts could also be sought against the former insurers of Wrights Insulation, which is also defunct.

Mr MacLellan, who lives in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, said: “My mother was devastated when she lost her mum to mesothelioma, so for her to suffer from the same disease was absolutely devastating.

“To find out the disease was caused by her exposure to asbestos simply by going to work every day is even more upsetting for the family.”

Anyone with information about working conditions at the Templeton carpet factory should contact Laura McCallum at Irwin Mitchell Scotland on 0141 300 4083.

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Family of asbestos victim exposed at Glasgow carpet factory appeal to former colleagues for help