Former Pipefitting Apprentice, Exposed to Asbestos as a Teen, Dies of Mesothelioma

Cheshire, UK—An inquest has heard that a pensioner, who was exposed to the mineral material asbestos some three decades ago, has died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma.

Eric Jones, 71, had worked at a Warrington cotton mill as an apprentice for the now-defunct Armitage and Rigby. He was learning to be a fitter, and as part of his work he repaired the steam pipes which were attached to boilers. Jones routinely used a hammer to dislodge the steam pipes which were coverd in asbestos insulation, causing clouds of asbestos dust to fill the surrounding air.

Although it’s generally accepted that asbestos is safe when it is undisturbed, the airborne dust contains microscopic fibers which can be inhaled. Once inside the body, they lodge themselves in a special lining of the lung called the mesothelium, eventually causing the cells there to become malignant and leading the to cancer mesothelioma. Once the asbestos fibers have entered the body, there is no way to remove them or otherwise cleanse the affected tissues.

Jones had not experienced exposure to asbestos after leaving the cotton mill. He had survived two heart attacks and a bypass operation before succumbing to the mesothelioma cancer in March 2009.

An inquest heard that Jones died from exposure to the carcinogenic asbestos, and Deputy Coroner for Cheshire Janet Napier recorded the cause of death as industrial disease. Jones was 71 at the time of his death.

Affecting approximately 3,000 new patients each year in the United Kingdom, mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that is incurable. It generally claims its victims within two years of diagnosis, and can only rarely be treated with surgery. Other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, may help alleviate the symptoms of the disease for some patients; in other cases, their side effects are deemed too debilitating and patients opt only for pain management methods.

Asbestos has been heavily regulated since the 1980s, but it remains in existing structures, and generally will not be removed unless public health officials deem it to be a hazard. Special precautions, such as using respirators, wearing protective clothing, and disposing of asbestos materials in a particular fashion, must be taken when undertaking an asbestos abatement or removal project, and such a project should only be undertaken by trained and licensed professionals.