The Silent Killer

I’d always used it for invulnerability. It was supposed to be safe, the base ingredients were all found in nature, so how could it hurt?

I started using it during the depression to help me get by. Jobs were scarce and payments were even scarcer. The price of materials had gone through the roof so us labourers were often punished twice over – those of us that could get work had to work twice as hard twice as often to make up for the shortfall. But we did it. We had our children’s cries over their empty bellies to push us along, just that little bit further. If only there was a way to make things easier!

And then we discovered it, this magical white substance! It was cheap, really cheap compared to other things we could be using. Looking back, I wonder whether that should have been the first sign. It was amazing, all of a sudden everything we touched was stronger and better, the world could rage on with its countless perils and we would stand tall and proud, the resilience the white stuff offered unwavering.

We worked like men possessed and we became kings. Eventually we had worked so much that there was extra food on the table, then new clothes for the kids, sometimes even toys and books and then suddenly there was no shortfall, no struggle, no hungry tears in the night and no sad faces. I had lifted my family out of a hole, and never once did I think that it would kill me to do it.

Years later I sit here struggling for breath and each heartbeat is a gift. We didn’t know using this stuff could kill us yet here I sit, a broken husk of the man I once was, shrivelled and wasting and unable to chase my grandchildren without keeling over in pain. It breaks my heart that little Billy once accused me of not loving him anymore when nothing could be further from the truth. Everything I did, retrospectively ill advised or not, I did for my family so we could make it through. I can’t even read to him anymore, I start coughing and he gets upset when he sees the blood in the handkerchief and runs away. I can’t go after him to find him and explain.

It was so easy, so cheap, and so natural! We had thought this innocuous white substance which we weaved through every fibre of everything we did would be our saviour. No, it will be the death of me. It won’t be long now, I can feel it. But what really hurts is how I’ve hurt my children and grandchildren with my wanton use of it. They will suffer too, far less than I have, but the danger is there for them as well.

Do I wish I could have done things differently? I do. I wish I had known how much pain and suffering I would cause, I would do anything to know I wasn’t inflicting this agony on others. But there’s no undoing past mistakes.

I wish I had never heard of asbestos.


I’m managing construction at the moment and we have been in the process of getting licensed to handle asbestos. I’ve also seen asbestos induced mesothelioma of the lungs, as in I’ve had the lungs on a bench in front of me. Let me tell you, this stuff is NASTY!

I had the urge to write a passive-aggressive ‘I hate asbestos’ poem because I swear if I hear the word one more time I’m going to explode, but this came out instead.

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