A former employee of EMI Records has fallen prey to the ravages of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, which he contracted at work.
Maurice Kelly, of Eastbourne, United Kingdom, worked at the EMI record factory in the 1950s, and recalls demolishing a boiler house as part of his duties. “The dust in there was terrific – it was all over my clothes and in my hair,” said Kelly in a witness statement before his death. The statement was presented to the coroner at his inquest, by his wife Diane Kelly.
Kelly was unaware of the dangers of asbestos during the time when he worked around the deadly fiber, which was used throughout the twentieth century as an insulating and building material. Asbestos is heatproof, fire-resistant, extremely strong and durable. It was often added to cement, concrete, plastics, wallboard, and industrial fabrics to lend its unique qualities to a wide array of industrial and commercial products.
When asbestos remains in place, it is usually considered safe. Yet when the materials containing it are disturbed or damaged in any way – as would have been the case when the boiler house at EMI was demolished – millions of microscopic asbestos fibers are released into the air. Without even realizing it, people can breathe in these fibers, which then become lodged in the lungs and other soft tissues inside the body. Particularly vulnerable is the mesothelium, a membrane which surrounds the lungs and lines the chest cavity. There, the asbestos fibers can cause cells to multiply and spread erratically, eventually forming a tumor.
When Kelly was diagnosed with mesothelioma, doctors found a tumor on his lung. One of the most devastating aspects of mesothelioma is the fact that it may not become symptomatic until late in its progression, by which time tumors are generally inoperative, or the cancer has spread throughout the body.
Coroner Alan Craze recorded a verdict of death by industrial disease in Kelly’s case.