Woman fighting to reform asbestos laws after losing mum to mesothelioma

Iris Craddock

The daughter of Stratford resident Iris Craddock is campaigning for legal reform to better protect women who suffer from secondary asbestos exposure. - Credit: Rae Wall

Rae Wall is fighting to reform asbestos laws after losing her mother to mesothelioma.

Iris Craddock died in May at the age of 82, following an eight-month battle with the disease during which it became clear she wouldn't be able to claim compensation against the employer to blame for her asbestos exposure.

Iris, of Stratford, was exposed to the fibres somewhere between 1955 and the early 1990s when she washed the clothes of her husband David (who worked in east London's lagging industry).

After being diagnosed with mesothelioma in September 2019, she explored the possibility of suing David's former employers, only to be dismayed by the lack of legal options available.

Two separate hurdles floored the family.

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Firstly,  the 1965 rule means that only exposure to asbestos which took place after that year can be pursued, leaving Iris in an uncertain position due to the lifespan of David's career.

Secondly, even if exposure after 1965 can be proven, public liability insurance for the former employers has to be identified - a near impossible task given that most companies have since folded.

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This meant that despite it being clear that Iris was exposed to asbestos due to the failings of David's former employer, she had no legal recourse.

This lack of protection is what Rae, 57, of Rainham, wants to change.

She said: "My mum should not have died simply because my dad went to work and she washed his work clothes. Because it is an overalls claim and requires public liability insurance, the law has been against us and others in a similar situation from the start.

"It’s simply unacceptable and unfair that women are caught out by this law and I want to help mesothelioma victims across the country get justice."

She has teamed up Lorna Webster, an asbestos law expert at Hodge Jones and Allen Solicitors. Lorna said: “Women are victims of a broken and backward system and it has to change – discrimination on these grounds is completely unacceptable.

"They are being punished and families torn apart simply because they helped a loved one by doing the laundry."

Rae hopes to drive awareness with this campaign, and to one day be able to say: "My mum had a role to play in that change."

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