England’s historic Midlands district forms a broad belt across the middle of the country from the North to the Irish Seas. Before England was unified under King Aelfred (“The Great”) in the ninth century, it was an independent kingdom known as Mercia; during Norman times, its massive hardwood forests were the setting of the exploits of Saxon rebels, forming the basis of the “Robin Hood” legends. Over the centuries, the land has been also been invaded by Romans, Scots, Picts, Angles, Jutes, Norsemen, and Danes. Today, the invader is Asbestos.
What is horrifying to British health authorities is not so much the fact that rates of asbestos-related cancer are soaring in the Midlands, but the fact that increasingly, these victims are not the industrial workers who typically contract asbestos illness, but teachers and nurses. Margaret Worthington, aged 70, is one of those teachers.
She is now dying from mesothelioma, and is suing the local education chiefs for the asbestos to which she was exposed as a result of using classroom pinboards. Alida Coates is an industrial disease expert with a local law firm. She gave the following statement: “Although there is hope for the future, we have seen a year on year increase in the number of people developing mesothelioma. Of greatest concern is the growing number of people like Margaret Worthington who worked in jobs, not usually associated with heavy exposure to asbestos and who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. “These include teachers, hospital staff and family members exposed to asbestos dust on their loved ones’ work clothes.” Why is this happening?
The only answer that Ms. Coates had was that more asbestos was used in the construction of schools and hospitals in the area than is generally realized. Ms. Worthington, a grandmother and wife of a retired engineer of the Royal Navy, is understandably angry about the “death sentence” she is under: “I do feel angry because I was careful about what I ate, drank moderately, was very active and confident…now I get breathless easily and don’t know how long I have left. It is unfair and I feel like punching a wall, but that attitude makes you ill.”