A UNION chief and ex-county councillor from Burnley is calling for an investigation into whether exposure to chemicals at his former workplace could have caused his bladder cancer.

After being diagnosed with the disease five years ago, Terry Burns, 51, said two different doctors told him the disease could have been caused by chemicals he was exposed to during a 23 year career in the aerospace industry.

The married father-of-three was employed as a technician by aircraft systems manufacturers, Lucas Aerospace, at its Wood Top, Hargher Clough and Heasandford sites from 1978 to 2000.

Part of his job as an inspector involved degreasing parts with dry cleaning chemicals tricoethylene and methylene chloride.

There is no suggestion that the firm, which was once the town’s largest employer, was aware the chemicals might have posed any danger.

But Mr Burns, who represented the Burnley North East ward on Lancashire County Council and has also served on Burnley Council, is on a fact-finding mission to establish what caused the cancer.

As part of that mission he is urging his former colleagues to come forward and provide information about their working conditions.

Once a clear picture of those conditions has been painted his legal representatives will consider whether there is a claim against Lucas Aerospace’s insurers.

Mr Burns said he went to see his doctor after noticing blood in his urine and was eventually diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2005.

He had to undergo gruelling chemotherapy sessions and surgery as part of his treatment programme.

He said doctors had told him certain chemicals are known or suspected to cause bladder cancer many years following the initial exposure.

Mr Burns returned to his role as the North West Political Officer for Unite Union two years ago.

The cancer is still being treated and he still has to attend regular check ups every six or twelve months.

He said: “I never expected to be diagnosed with cancer. I have always been fit and healthy.

"I have never smoked but when the consultant mentioned the cancer could have been caused by chemicals I decided to find out if that was the case.

"I had an operation in 2005 and fortunately at the moment the cancer is being held at bay.

“I have no idea what the future holds for me but I feel positive at the moment."

Established in 1947, Lucas Aerospace once employed 3,000 people in Burnley across a number of sites.

Its Bancroft Road site was acquired by French company Hurel Dubois in 1989 and renamed in 2001.

In 2005 the site was renamed again, this time to Aircelle Limited, which is how it is known today.

Mr Burns is now calling on former employees to contact his legal representatives, Thompsons Solicitors.

Client representative Marion Voss, said: "Exposure to certain chemicals can increase the risk of bladder cancer. Fortunately Mr Burns’s condition is being treated at present.

“However, it's important that we trace his former workmates so we can build up a more accurate and complete account of his working environment and history of chemical exposure."

Mr Burns was a county councillor between 1990 and last year.

He became its chairman in 2006.

Prior to his tenure at County Hall he spent six years as a borough councillor.

Last year he received an MBE at Buckingham Palace for services to the town and trade union movements.

Mr Burns is married to Wendy with whom he has three sons, Gary, Daniel and Elliott.

Anyone with any information who worked with Mr Burns at Lucas Areospace from 1978 to 2000 should contact Marion Voss on 0113 205 6300.