Inquests warning on asbestos dangers
York Coroner Donald Coverdale confirmed at the city coroner’s court that all four people died from malignant mesothelioma – an incurable lung cancer which develops after exposure to asbestos.
Ian Toft, a solicitor in the industrial illness team at Irwin Mitchell, said that the nature of each victim’s exposure to asbestos underlined its widespread dangers.
Connie Spence, from Acomb, York, who died aged 80 in October 2010, believed she developed mesothelioma as a result of secondary exposure to asbestos while working in a shop immediately opposite the York Carriage Works, at Holgate Park, which had a history of exposing its employees to asbestos. Men from the factory, which closed after 150 years in 1995, used to regularly enter the shop covered in dirt and dust.
Former Second World War veteran Alfred Barker, from New Earswick, died in February. Mr Barker, who was 86, believed he was exposed to asbestos directly while working as a builder for Sorrell Ltd. He worked at the company, an established building firm based in Layerthorpe, York, from 1946 until the mid-1960s.
The coroner also heard details of two other mesothelioma victims, including a painter who spent most of his working life at York’s Rowntree factory, and Stanley Gee, from York, who died aged 71, and believed he was exposed to asbestos while working as a plumber at JH Shouksmiths Limited in the 1960s.
No one from the companies mentioned at the inquests was available for comment.
Mr Toft said: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive cancer which causes a great deal of suffering to its victims. Unfortunately it still remains incurable, and makes asbestos the biggest occupational killer of all time. Asbestos has long been associated with heavy industry, including sites like the York Carriage Works, but sadly we are seeing an increasing number of people being affected.”