A former worker at the Mason McCabe plant in Birmingham, England may have inadvertently given his daughter the rare cancer mesothelioma.
Judith Tomlinson, 58, was diagnosed with asbestos cancer after feeling breathless during a vacation. A biopsy confirmed that she had contracted the disease, which is almost always linked to previous exposure to asbestos. Tomlinson’s father, Bob Adcock, was a foreman at the construction firm between 1958 and 1982, and therefore was exposed to the toxic carcinogen on a daily basis. Tomlinson believes that she experienced secondhand exposure when her father hugged her or when she helped do his laundry, as the asbestos particles can cling to fabric.
Adcock also used the company’s van, which would have had a high percentage of asbestos contamination due to the tools and other materials in it, to drive the family around. In addition, Tomlinson helped her mother do the wash, and says that her father’s work clothes were so dusty and filthy that they had to go through a wash on their own.
Asbestos, which was commonly used throughout the earlier decades of the twentieth century because of its tensile strength and extreme resistance to fire and heat, is made up of microscopic fibers that can become airborne. When they are inhaled, they become lodged in the body’s organs and soft tissues, particularly the lungs and the membrane which surrounds and protects them, which is known as the mesothelium.
The resulting cancer, malignant mesothelioma, can take up to fifty years to develop and become symptomatic, making it particularly difficult to diagnose. Additionally, the symptoms of mesothelioma are often confused for symptoms of other common respiratory diseases, like emphysema and bronchitis, which means that it is often misdiagnosed or even undiagnosed. Although it can be treated with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, there is currently no cure for mesothelioma and the prognosis is generally grim.