A Leicestershire woman is dying from cancer caused by inhaling asbestos dust on her husband's work clothes.

Maureen Percy, of Kirby Muxloe, contracted fatal mesothelioma from washing her husband Colin's dust ridden clothes, which were so filthy that the couple kept a separate washing machine to avoid them coming into contact with the family's clothes.

Maureen's solicitors, Thompsons of Birmingham, are seeking compensation from Colin's former employer TI Desford which is now part of Smiths PLC.The case is backed by Colin's trade union the Transport and General Workers Union.

72 year old Maureen visited her GP earlier this year suffering back pain. She had always enjoyed excellent health and completed a four mile run last year. Her doctor prescribed painkillers, which did not help, and tests and x-rays did not reveal the cause of the pain.

Doctor advised of no treatment or cure

The devastating diagnosis of mesothelioma came after Glenfield Hospital in Leicester used cameras under a general anaesthetic.

Maureen said: "My doctor told me gently that there was no treatment or cure. I asked him how much time I had got and the consultant indicated thathe could not say because it was not known how long I had had the tumour.

"The hardest thing is for me to come to terms with having developed this condition. My health was perfect before. I have never smoked. It is devastating for me and my husband to know that I have got this because of washing asbestos contaminated clothing. I washed them for a number of years. I never missed a Saturday wash that I can recall."

The tragedy of Maureen's case is not uncommon. Because mesothelioma can take decades to develop, Thompsons is seeing an increasing number of similar cases. Mesothelioma is always fatal and is an extremely painful form of cancer.

Workers exposed to asbestos dust by employers

Maureen's lawyer, Terry Loughrey said: "It is difficult to imagine the devastation experienced by the family in these cases. It is bad enough that employers exposed their workers to asbestos but that they never warned them of the dangers of taking the dusty clothes home with them is, frankly, unforgivable. Husbands often feel great guilt for bringing the lethal dust home on their clothes and thus exposing their family to deadly risk but the workers were completely innocent.

"In some cases, it can be difficult to pursue the husband's employer for compensation because their insurance does not cover injury to non-employees and because they strenuously deny any responsibility or liability for the exposure. In Maureen's case we can pursue Colin's former employer, and the case is ongoing. Although compensation can never make up for the terrible pain and suffering, it does at least go some way to helping with the cost of care that is needed."