MARK Hunter vividly recalls the film of white dust settling on everything as he grew up in a former mining village.

He said: “We never realised what it was and had no idea how dangerous it could be”.

The source was the Cape Asbestos Factory in in Bowburn, County Durham - the seemingly innocuous substance potentially lethal dust spewed out from its vents.

Mr Hunter, 51, was speaking at the Crowtrees Workingmen’s Club, in Bowburn, today (Wednesday, October 16) after hearing Caroline Wilcock - girl he had know from his childhood - had accepted an out-of-court settlement from the successors of the factory.

He said: “We used to see the housewives cleaning the windows and wiping it off the windowsills every day.

“There was dust all over. But we didn’t know what it was in them days.

“I was only a kid. We used to break it up and use it as chalk."

He added: “A friend of mine’s father who worked at the factory died very young 15 years ago and he has been trying to claim compensation ever since.

“I believe it is right they should pay out. They made massive profits.

“If anyone takes ill they should pay out quickly and if someone has died they should still be held to account and pay out to their families.”

George Potts, 70, who had joined Mr Hunter for a pint at the club, said he had worked at the factory for many years after 1970.

He said: “I worked with white asbestos when I was there. My job was to saw it up. We never wore masks. We had them, but were never told to wear them.”

Mr Potts said he was not aware of having been affected by his exposure to asbestos.

Brian Grove, 70, on his way home from shopping, said: “I remember the dust used to cover the window sills of the houses nearby. There were vents and they used to blow the stuff out.

“Nobody realised how bad asbestos could be for you. Even the men working there had no idea.

“When the mines closed it was an ideal place for them to get work.

“Nobody thought about (the dangers of asbestos) it until we started hearing about the health problems it caused for people.

“It cost them millions to decontaminate the land. They had to dig down three feet to get rid of it. It has all been built on now.”

He added: “I have regular checkups and my health is fine. I am pleased the factory has gone.

“I cannot see how anybody would get permission to build anything like it again.”