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Tony Antrobus

Angela Antrobus will never forget the look on her husband Tony's face the day he was told he was dying from the asbestos related disease mesothelioma.

"It was the most moving moment in my life, "said 64 year old Angela Antrobus of Chester. "He was told he had 18 months to live, but he died within three months.

"I feel cheated of the life we have planned. He worked hard all his life, but did not live long enough to enjoy his retirement."

Tony came into contact with asbestos through his job as a joiner and now Angela wants her husband's death to act as a warning to other young tradesmen - plumbers, electricians and joiners - to help them avoid the dangers of asbestos.

The warning is part of the Health and Safety Executive's campaign 'Asbestos - the hidden killer', aimed at young tradesmen who know that asbestos is dangerous, but don't believe they are at risk.

Tony worked for various joinery companies in and around the Chester area all his life and frequently came into contact with asbestos dust through sawing asbestos sheets to use as insulation and drilling fixing holes. The danger of asbestos was not known at the time and no safety precautions were taken.

A drummer with the Blue Magnolia Jazz Orchestra, Tony had been fit and active all his life. Although Tony had three chest infections in 2002, he was given the all clear and remained very fit and well, unaware of the ticking time bomb inside him until November 2004. But it was to be another five months of waiting and numerous tests before they were given the devastating news that Tony was terminally ill with mesothelioma, and there was no treatment available.

His wife Angela said:

"He lost a lot of weight, it was heartbreaking to see him in so much pain. He said it was like trying to breath with a lump of concrete on his chest. Tony wasn't aware of the dangers he faced but today's tradesmen should be. Over 500,000 buildings in the UK contain the deadly material which tradesmen will come across during maintenance and refurbishment work."

"It is important that employers educate their staff about the dangers of asbestos and the proper precautions taken to reduce the risk. It is such a devastating illness. It's a horrendously painful death and should not happen to anyone."

"You don't think it will happen to you. People who die of asbestos related disease are missing out on life. My message to young tradesmen today is to make sure you take the proper precautions - think of your wife and children. A moment's care now means can enjoy your life with them."

"We had planned our retirement. Had a caravan and were looking forward to travelling around the country and seeing the sights. It was ironic on what would have been Tony's 65th birthday I sold the caravan that we planned to tour in."

Tony and Angela had been together for 28 years but married in a bedside ceremony at the local cottage hospital where Tony had been admitted just five days before his death. He had been confined to bed for four weeks at home, but as his illness progressed and his breathing got worse he needed oxygen constantly. The couple then agreed that they needed the support of medical and training staff around them. Tony died there on 13th July 2005, only three months after his diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Currently six electricians die every week as a consequence 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.

Updated 2012-10-04