Sherlock of Solihull: Mesothelomia and Vanishing Asbestos Mystery

Solihull is a large town in the West Midlands of England with a population of 206,700 in the 2011 Census. It is a part of the West Midlands conurbation and is located 8 miles (13 kilometres) southeast of Birmingham city centre. It is the largest town in, and administrative centre of, the larger Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, which itself has a population of 200,400.

Solihull is one of the most affluent areas outside of London. In November 2013, the uSwitch Quality of Life Index named Solihull the "best place to live" in the United Kingdom. Residents of Solihull and those born in the town are referred to as Silhillians. The motto of Solihull is Urbs in Rure (Town in Country).

Mystery surrounds a pile of suspected asbestos which was dumped at the side of a road in Smith’s Wood. The potentially lethal material was fly-tipped on Lanchester Way, Smith’s Wood and an appeal was launched by Solihull Community Housing on social media to find the person responsible.

But when officers from Solihull Council and Solihull Community Housing went to investigate whether the material was asbestos or if there was any indication who it belonged to, it had vanished.

The natural fibrous rock which was widely used to insulate homes and buildings until 1999 can be lethal if the asbestos fibres are disturbed or allowed to be released into the air.

When breathed in, asbestos fibres can can cause fatal and serious diseases including lung cancer and pleural thickening, where the lining of the lung thickens and swells causing shortness of breath.

Fourteen years ago Mr. Graham Sherlock-Brown of Solihull was given six months to live when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs (known as the mesothelium). The most common area affected is the lining of the lungs and chest wall. Less commonly the lining of the abdomen and rarely the sac surrounding the heart, or the sac surrounding the testis may be affected. Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma may include shortness of breath due to fluid around the lung, a swollen abdomen, chest wall pain, cough, feeling tired, and weight loss. These symptoms typically come on slowly.

Mr Sherlock-Brown was diagnosed in 2002 despite never having worked with asbestos.
Instead, he worked in IT, but says his brother was a builder who came home with asbestos on his clothes.

Eight years later while the devastating impact of asbestos was the focal point of Action Mesothelioma Day, he was keen to offer a message of hope to the Derbyshire people affected by the deadly dust.

Standing in front of a large audience in the Quad, he told how he had his right lung removed and underwent chemotherapy and now has no symptoms of the illness.

And while medics say no-one with mesothelioma can be described as "cured", Mr Sherlock-Brown has come about as close as possible to being free of the illness.

He travels around the country speaking to those affected by the deadly dust in a bid to inspire them. The 63-year-old, of Solihull, told the audience: "Having survived against all the odds and regained a good quality of life, sometimes I think I'm a freak"

Now, any Solihull resident who wants to dispose of asbestos can do it safely at the Coventry Recycling and Re-Use Centre on Bar Road in Coventry.

Asbestos will need to be double wrapped in plastic and sealed in manageable sizes and an asbestos permit must be obtained from the site before visiting by calling 0121 704 8000.

Mesothelioma typically develops after people are exposed to asbestos in the workplace – in industrial settings, shipyards, auto repair shops, old houses, schools and public buildings. While it usually takes long-term exposure to put someone at risk, short-term and one-time exposures are also known to cause this cancer.

Treatment is expensive, and insurance companies may not cover the cost of diagnostic tests or experimental therapies. People without medical insurance will face an even harder battle. If you or a loved one is diagnosed, consider taking steps to protect your finances.
Many people with mesothelioma seek legal help to recoup medical expenses and secure a financial future for their families. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are entirely preventable, but the companies that mined, manufactured and sold asbestos products put profits before the health of customers and their own employees. Our legal system ensures these companies are held accountable for their negligence.

People who were injured by asbestos can seek legal help through an established asbestos trust fund or by filing a lawsuit against the companies responsible for their asbestos exposure. Trust fund benefits, winning legal claims or out of court settlements can help you and your family cover treatment, lost wages and other expenses.

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