Eastbourne, UK—An avid cyclist and former dental technician has died from mesothelioma, which it is believed he contracted while working with asbestos-contaminated dental equipment.
Edward Seviour began working in a dental laboratory at the tender age of 13, and continued in that line of work until his retirement. The dental labs were often dusty from asbestos material, and much of the equipment that Seviour would have used, including the gloves he wore, has asbestos as a component. In 2008, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma after consulting his physician about a chest infection.
Asbestos used to be highly favored as an insulating material, because of its resistance to heat and fire, its strength and durability, and the fact that it does not conduct electricity. Moreover, it can be spun into yarn or woven into cloth, and mixed with plastics or cement. This versatile material, however, is also a carcinogen. When its microscopic fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled and do great damage to a lining of the lungs and chest cavity called the mesothelium. Sharp and needle-like, they pierce this lining and cause cellular damage, leading to the formation of tumors.
Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer—it’s diagnosed in only about 3,000 people in the United Kingdom and around the same number in the U.S.—and it is particularly deadly. Fewer than 10 percent of people who are diagnosed with this disease go on to live more than two years after the diagnosis. Part of the problem lies with the difficulty of treating this cancer; since it spreads in a diffuse manner across the mesothelium, instead of forming discrete tumors, it is extremely hard to remove through surgery. It also tends to be resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.
After an inquest, the Eastbourne Coroner, Alan Craze, said that Seviour had a large number of asbestos fibers in his body, which were “evidence of much greater than average exposure during life.” He recorded a verdict of industrial disease.
Seviour was an avid bicyclist and the president of the East Sussex Cycle Tourist Club. He also enjoyed restoring vintage racing cycles. He leaves behind a wife, Gwendoline.