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Michael Badger

Christine and Michael Badger were teenage sweethearts who met at school in Sheffield at the age of 13, married at 18, and set up home together in the same local area in which they both grew up. By the age of 21, they had already completed their much-loved family of three with the arrival of eldest daughter Samantha, followed by twins Emma and Kelly.

However, their story does not have the fairy-tale ending it deserves. At the age of 50 Michael was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related illness from which, sadly, he was to die only six months later in March 2006 aged 51, just a few short weeks before he was due to give his daughter Emma away in marriage.

Michael, always known to the family as Sam, left school at 16 to take up an apprenticeship with a small firm of heating engineers and pipe-fitters, who also arranged for him to learn his trade at a local college. Later in his mid-20s, he went to work for a public sector employer but throughout both these periods his work brought him into regular contact with asbestos dust and it was this exposure that was to prove fatal.

Christine Badger says:

"His death seems so unfair, so wrong. Something could, and should, have been done to prevent it."

"Despite the fact that asbestos was known to be dangerous, Michael and his workmates would come across it regularly in the form of lagging on heating pipes, but employers would instruct them to carry on regardless. Keen to keep working, they went ahead, chipping it off the pipes with a hammer and piling up the debris."

Michael was young and concerned to build a good life for his growing family, so he just got on with the job in hand. He worked with asbestos for over fifteen years but was always haunted by the risk to his health. From his early 30s he made sure that his work with asbestos was included in his medical notes and was quick to advise doctors of his working history.

So in October 2005 when he started to feel tired and generally unwell he quickly sought advice and was sent for a chest x-ray, which revealed mesothelioma. He stopped work immediately as illness rapidly took hold.

"It was devastating," says Christine. "The disease took a terrible toll and all too quickly Michael became a shadow of the man he had been."

"People don't always realise how much such an illness changes the lives of everyone else. Michael was a great family man. His mother has never recovered from his death and our three daughters and eldest grandchildren, 13-year-old James and 10 year old Adam, are all still grieving terribly. Our youngest grandchildren - Charlie, Daise, and Torin - are all too little at 6, 3, and 2 to have real memories to hold on to which is sad for them, and the youngest, Sam, was born only 14 months ago, and so has missed the chance to get to know the granddad he was named after."

"Our daughter Emma brought her wedding forward to June 2006 in the hope that her father could still be with her. Unfortunately, he missed out on walking both her and her twin sister Kelly, who has married more recently, up the aisle. To do this would have made him very proud indeed."

Michael was a sociable man who enjoyed nothing better than getting together with friends for a drink or a game of indoor cricket. Towards the end of his life more than 32 of his workmates got together to surprise him with the sort of evening at his local pub which had by that stage in his illness had become a real struggle for him - a gesture which he found enormously affecting.

It is the knowledge that it is too late for her husband Michael and those he worked with that has encouraged Christine to get involved in "Asbestos - the hidden killer", the Health and Safety Executive's campaign aimed at young tradesmen who know that asbestos is dangerous, but don't believe they are at risk.

Currently twenty trades people are dying every week because of exposure to asbestos dust while at work. Asbestos is a real and relevant risk to today's tradesmen, any building built or refurbished before the year 2000 could contain the deadly substance. Many trades people think that because the substance has been banned it no longer poses a risk, this is not the case and the danger is life threatening.

Christine says:

"Michael really enjoyed the company of young people, and got on particularly well with all the apprentices he worked alongside. I know he would want his legacy to be a message to young people like these to protect themselves - to realise that it is their lives that are at stake."

"I for one would say to any one working in the industry today - find out more about asbestos and how deadly it can be. Don't put your life at risk by not seeking advice."

It is estimated that around 500,000 non-domestic buildings could contain asbestos. These buildings all need repair and maintenance work from time to time and when the asbestos fibres are disturbed, for example by drilling or cutting, they are likely to be inhaled.

Updated 2012-10-04