Dad’s legal fight over terminal illness

Michael Fernay
Michael Fernay
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A WIGAN dad has launched a landmark fight to prove that his former workplace left him terminally ill.

One-time fitter Michael Fernay has been given months to live after being diagnosed with a form of blood cancer and fears it was caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals at a local factory 40 years ago.

The Shevington 65-year-old is now appealing for former colleagues to come forward to help investigate possible links.

The dad of four was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in February this year following a bone marrow biopsy. He now needs a blood transfusion every two weeks, takes drugs to ward off infection because of a weakened immune system and is also on painkillers.

But while younger people with the condition can be subjected to intensive treatment to cure the cancer, it is not offered to older people because the therapy would kill them quicker than the illness.

He has instructed industrial illness specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell to seek justice as he believes his AML was caused by exposure to benzene, a known carcinogen, while working as a fitter at the long defunct British Glue and Chemicals site off Mill Lane, Appley Bridge between 1964 and 1973.

The quest for compensation would be the first of its kind.

British Glue and Chemicals was acquired in 1968 by Croda International - a large firm still in existence today.

Mr Fernay worked in the former benzene plant and recalls being asked to remove pipe work from it on several occasions for it to be used elsewhere in the factory.

He said: “I remember the pipework I worked on being covered in benzene residue.

“Sometimes there was still benzene fluid in the pipes I was removing which spilt on to my overalls and hands.

“During my time working at the plant I don’t remember ever being supplied with protective clothing or given warnings about coming into contact with benzene. There wasn’t that sort of attention to health and safety in those days.

“But there is growing evidence that benzene causes the conditions I have. I have bumped into other people with AML while at hospital who have also worked with benzene in paints and petrol and like the consultant told me, things like myelofibrosis can take decades to creep up on you.

“It is 12 months since I was diagnosed with AML and told I had months rather than years. I try to be philosophical about things. When I go in for treatment I see other patients who make me feel like an athlete and I wouldn’t swap places with them.

“There is no point wallowing in self-pity. You just try to make the best of things although I am gradually getting weaker. I used to like DIY but if I try anything now I have to go for a lie-down afterwards.”