David Ball

Jenny Ball will be 65 in October and had been looking forward to retiring to the Greek island of Kos with her husband David and enjoying their life together in the sunshine.

Sadly that dream is just a memory for Jenny who lives on the Wirral whose husband died of the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma four years ago.

Now Jenny wants her husband's death to act as a severe warning to 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.

David worked for a major manufacturing company on the Wirral joining as an office junior straight from school at 15, and then he moved on to an apprenticeship as an electrician 2 years later. He was the third generation of his family to work for the company. With the exception of a 12-month period, he worked for the company all his life, including two spells overseas in Ghana and Nigeria, retiring when he was 57.

As part of his job David worked with asbestos, cutting up sheets with a handsaw and drilling into the material - all the time breathing in the dust that was being created.

The danger of working with asbestos was unknown to David and his workmates and subsequently they did not use masks or any other protective equipment. David enjoyed his job - but he enjoyed his holidays more and often talked with his wife of their plans to retire to Greece.

Jenny, who had been married to David for 28 years, said:

"Tradesmen should be aware of what they are working with and look out for asbestos, especially in older buildings. Young people can be very cavalier and think they are invincible."

"My husband was a big strong man, but I saw him disappear in front of me because of asbestos and I don't want other people to have to go through that. People need to be educated about the dangers of asbestos."

"It's indescribable to see a loved one fade and die in front of your eyes. David went down from 13 stones to eight stones. It was described to me as though my husband's lungs were filling up with concrete. I don't want anyone to have to go through the suffering that my husband went through."

"David and I first went to Kos in Greece in 1995 and fell in love with the island. We planned to retire together there, but never realised our dreams. I feel I have been robbed, but David did get his final wish to have his ashes scattered in the sea off Kos."

His wife added:

"At the time people were not aware of the risks from asbestos and protective masks and clothing were not used. I don't want my husband to have died in vain. His death should serve as a warning to tradesmen today."

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.

Jenny and David both had two children each from previous marriages and a son Simon together. There are five grandchildren, but only one was born before David's death.

When David was first diagnosed, he was only given a short time to live and his son Simon and fiancée Laura were due to marry. So that his father could be part of the proceedings a special blessing was held at the hospice in advance of the wedding. The actual wedding took place on 2 April - a month after his death.

Every year there are still over 4,000 deaths from asbestos related diseases, thousands of tradesmen could be working where asbestos is present right now.

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Updated 2023-05-16