Over five thousand Tyneside residents have signed the Action Mesothelioma Petition, organised by the British Lung Foundation and local charity Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund (MKMRF) which aims to improve diagnosis and encourage further research into treatment of this deadly cancer. Mesothelioma is a malignant lung disease which is caused by exposure to asbestos.

The Mick Knighton Fund was launched in May 2002 by Chris Knighton, in memory of her husband who died from the disease. Chris has raised over £100,000 to support research into Mesothelioma while raising awareness about the disease. The Fund is run entirely by volunteers issuing regular newsletters, maintaining a web site and a telephone help line.

Chris Knighton explains: "This campaign will at last highlight the plight of mesothelioma victims nationally. Mesothelioma is a particularly cruel disease so our message is clear - please don't let future sufferers be denied the right to better care, treatment and support!"  Dame Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "This campaign is particularly important for people in the North East, the high incidence of mesothelioma in the area means that many families have been affected by this cruel disease. We want to raise awareness of mesothelioma and warn people about the precautions they can take to avoid exposure to asbestos in their homes when undertaking DIY projects."

Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer

Ian McFall, a Patron of the Fund and Head of the National Asbestos Team at Thompsons Solicitors, comments: "Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer which affects over 1800 people in the UK each year with the numbers of fatalities expected to rise for at least the next 10 years. The majority of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are innocent victims who were exposed to asbestos during the course of their working life. This campaign is an important milestone in recognising the need for improved awareness and better support for families affected by mesothelioma."

Families from the North East who have been devastated by mesothelioma include Alan Short from North Shields who died aged 61. Alan was exposed to asbestos working as a bricklayer for Hastie D. Burton & Son Ltd. Ray Kerrigan, from Houghton le Spring, died aged 50. Ray served an apprenticeship as an electrician at Swan Hunter in Wallsend. Brian Edwards, from Stockton on Tees, died aged 60. Brian was employed by Rolls Royce and Prospect Engineering as a sheet metal worker/millwright. Robert Willis, from Northumberland, died aged 55. Robert was employed by William Coal & Son and Co-op as a bricklayer working alongside labourers sweeping up asbestos. 

The Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund is organising a Mesothelioma Seminar at St James' Park in Newcastle on 27th February 2006. The seminar is for health care and legal professionals, trade unions, health and safety representatives and all individual family members affected by mesothelioma. Further details can be found at: http://mickknightonmesorf.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/upevents.htm.