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Electrician’s wife contracted ‘industrial disease’ by washing his overalls

PUBLISHED: 12:36 06 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:36 06 March 2020

The College of West Anglia in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

The College of West Anglia in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

A woman died from an industrial disease she contracted by washing her husband’s overalls, a court was told.

Geraldine Rowell, 73, died at her home in King's Lynn on November 26.

An inquest into her death at Lynn coroner's court heard she had worked in offices and had not been exposed to asbestos in her job.

But in a statement made before her death, she said her husband Michael had been an electrician at the College of West Anglia between 1997 and 2003.

She said while working in the boiler room, he came into contact with heating pipes with asbestos lagging which was in poor condition.

She said her husband's overalls would become contaminated with dust and debris, adding: "I was not aware of the danger of shaking Michael's overalls before washing them."

Mrs Rowell, of Gaskell Way, Reffley, began suffering from a dry cough and breathlessness in September 2018.

After scans and a biopsy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, she was diagnosed with a malignant mesothelioma.

She was given chemotherapy between February and May of 2019, but her condition worsened later in the year and she died on November 26.

In a statement Mrs Rowell's husband Michael said although his wife had been born with cerebral palsy, her health had been generaly good until she contracted the cough in 2018.

"We can't think of anywhere she would be in direct contact with asbestos," he said. "We think she contracted it by washing my overalls."
Mr Rowell said a number of buildings on the college campus were out of bounds to students when he worked there because of their condition.

"The boiler house was the worst place," he added. "Everywhere was covered in white flakes and powder."

Assistant coroner Johanna Thompson concluded Mrs Rowell died from the industrial disease mesothelioma.

No evidence from the College of West Anglia was heard at the inquest. When contacted after the hearing, it said no-one was available to comment.

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