Deidre is the loving widow of her husband Thomas, who died from Pleural Mesothelioma in 1997. She created a site dedicated to her husband which shares the stories of those who have lost a family member as a result of an asbestos disease.

On the 7th January 1997 my husband Thomas C vanGerven was diagnosed with Pleural Mesothelioma.


Thomas before diagnosis

We had never heard of it. All we were told was that it was a cancer of the lining of the lung and it was caused by asbestos. Another thing we knew nothing about. But the news that was by far the worst was that it was a death sentence.

Thom was told to go home and to get his affairs sorted out as he was going to die. All hope was taken away from Thom that day. Four and a half months later on the 1st June he died.

Then began my search into mesothelioma and asbestos. I was appalled to find that because of sheer greed hundreds of thousands of people had died or were dying or are going to die in the future.

That even though the dangers of asbestos had been known for many decades, people dealing with asbestos lied and cheated just so they could make a “buck”. And even now in this day and age they are
still lying.

More than 5000 products contain or have contained asbestos, some of which are asbestos cement sheeting and pipe products used for water supply and sewage, piping, roofing and siding casings for electrical switchboards and components, and residential and industrial friction heat and electrical wire insulation materials.

Asbestos textile products, such as components, roofing materials, ceiling and floor tiling. It was used in a stipling compound
that was used on the ceilings of 10,000s of New Zealand homes. “Thermal system insulation” sprayed or trowelled on “surfacing material” and vinyl or asphalt flooring is particularly likely to contain asbestos.

Asbestos corrugated roofing products containing asbestos are still coming into our country. Because they are a manufactured article they are deemed safe so do not come under any regulations here in NZ. Try sawing, cutting or drilling into these products while building or renovating your home.

You will not know which products contained asbestos, but in 20, 30 40 plus years time when you are diagnosed with an asbestos related disease you can think back and take a guess which manufactured article had asbestos in it and is now killing you.


Thomas after diagnosis

For asbestos fibres to be visible to the human eye there must be thousands or even millions of fibres in the air, for example, when a drywall worker is sanding down dried asbestos joint compound or a pipe fitter is using a wire brush to clean off pieces of an asbestos gasket from a flange. In those instances, millions of asbestos fibres are released and that can be a sufficient quantity to create an visible cloud of asbestos dust in the air.

It is scientifically accepted that malignant mesothelioma can be caused by relatively low doses of asbestos, certainly even amounts of asbestos that do not create visible clouds of dust in the air. That’s one of the aspects of mesothelioma that makes it such an insidious disease. New regulations on asbestos in NZ do not cover products containing asbestos or those people doing home renovations.

I cannot see why they think that such a cavalier approach to something that is quite serious to the health of all of us is okay, It’s not okay. All asbestos kills. It may not kill everyone who comes in contact with it. But you do not know who is going to be the unlucky person. Will it be you? Or will it be me?

To read more, visit Deidres’ website:

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