Portsmouth, UK – A retired plumber who had been exposed to asbestos all of his working life contracted mesothelioma and died as a result, said a coroner.
Trefor Williams was asked on his first day of work to cut an asbestos pipe in order to demonstrate that he could saw straight, said his wife Anne. From that day forward, he worked with asbestos off and on for the duration of his career as a plumber, which lasted a total of 50 years. Asbestos, once regarded as a “miracle mineral” because of its flexibility, durability and resistance to heat and flame, is nevertheless a carcinogenic substance. This is due to its microscopic fibers, which are sharp and needle-like and which can burrow deep into the tissue surrounding the lungs, known as the mesothelium. Once embedded in the mesothelium, the asbestos fibers can irritate the surrounding cells, causing them to replicate abnormally.
Mesothelioma, a rare but extremely aggressive cancer, can result. Mesothelioma may lie latent within the body for a number of years before becoming symptomatic. This means that by the time it is diagnosed, it may have developed to an untreatable stage, and there is little hope left for the patient beyond pain relief or other palliative care. In most cases, the patient will die within two years of being diagnosed with mesothelioma often much sooner. The disease causes pain, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, and excess fluid build up in the chest cavity. In Williams’ case, the cancer led to his death a mere eight months after diagnosis with malignant pleural mesothelioma, although Williams died from pneumonia, which was caused by the mesothelioma. He was 67 at the time of his death. The coroner in the area recorded a verdict that Williams died from an industrial disease, stating that he contracted the cancer by working with asbestos for much of his life.