Former British Rail Train Driver Dies From Mesothelioma

Derbyshire, U.K.–A former British Rail train driver who has died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma used to make “snowballs” with the mineral material, his widow said.

Frank White, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2008 and who died in June 2009, worked for the rail line for nearly fifty years. While training to be a driver, he cleaned out fireboxes, which were lined with asbestos. A post-mortem examination revealed that White died from complications of mesothelioma, including pneumonia. Louise Pinder, deputy coroner for Derby and South Derbyshire, recorded a verdict of death by industrial disease, and said that White’s mesothelioma was indeed caused by his exposure to asbestos during his 47-year employment at British Rail.

After his inquest, his widow Freda, 80, described how White and his coworkers would make snowballs out of the asbestos, or shape it into a football to kick and throw.

Asbestos is a catch-all term for a group of fibrous silicate minerals, and has some remarkable properties. Asbestos fibers can be separated out and woven into cloth, or the mineral may be used in the manufacture of other building products, such as cement, concrete, drywall, joint compound and spray-on insulation. Asbestos is often used for insulating or fireproofing purposes, as it is virtually impervious to heat and fire. It’s also extremely strong and durable.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, although one that is becoming more common. This may be because the disease’s latency period – of the length of time between exposure to asbestos and becoming symptomatic – is extremely long. It’s possible for up to fifty years to elapse before being diagnosed with the cancer. Unfortunately, this means that by the time the diagnosis is made, the cancer has progressed to late stages and is virtually untreatable.

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may all be used to alleviate pain and make the patient more comfortable, depending on the stage of the disease. Currently there is no cure for mesothelioma.