Washing husband’s dirty overalls could have led to King’s Lynn woman’s death from asbestos-related disease
- Credit: Carnegie family
The family of a King's Lynn woman who believed that washing her first husband's dirty overalls may have led her to develop asbestos-related cancer have joined with lawyers to call for his former colleagues to help them get justice.
Kathleen Carnegie, 70, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung commonly associated with asbestos exposure, in January after she suffered breathlessness and tests revealed there was fluid on her lungs. She died in June.
Following the diagnosis, Mrs Carnegie instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate how she came to develop the illness. While she was not exposed to the material during office jobs throughout her working life, it is believed that washing her first husband Anthony Nixon's overalls may have played a part.
As he died in 2003, she called on former colleagues who worked with him at Cape Asbestos in Uxbridge in the 1960s to come forward with information regarding the working conditions he may have faced.
Samantha Shaw, the specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who is representing Kathleen, said: 'Our client's story may seem unusual, but we have seen a great number of cases in which people have developed mesothelioma despite never working in close contact with asbestos.'
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Mr Nixon worked at Cape Asbestos from 1960 to around 1969 and wore his overalls in the family car as he travelled home and would keep them on after returning to the house.
Mrs Carnegie's son, Nigel, who has taken over the legal case, said: 'Mum's diagnosis was a shock to all of us. Considering mum only ever worked in offices we were all stunned when she was told she had mesothelioma and we can only think that it has come about after washing Tony's clothes.
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'I remember talking to her about her condition and she would tell me how she could still remember the smell of Tony's overalls and how dusty they were.
'She often would have to wash them a couple of times a week and would always need to give them a shake before getting started. She didn't have a washing machine then either, so she was often washing them by hand.
'It is extremely difficult to take that she might have got the illness that killed her in this manner and we as a family feel we deserve to know how it happened. I would be hugely grateful if any of Tony's former workmates can come forward.'
A former university lecturer from Hunworth is also appealing for information, after working as a labourer between school and university.
Bernard Waites, 71, was diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer in February and worked on the construction of barracks in Aldershot in the 1960s.
Legal experts are keen to speak to anyone who may have worked with Mr Waites during his time at Gee, Walker and Slater – between January and July 1964. Specifically, they are keen for details about the construction of the Montgomery Lines Barracks in Aldershot.
Mr Waites, who grew up in Aldershot, began working at Gee Walker and Slater after leaving school following the completion of his A-Levels. He later studied in London before working for the Open University. On his retirement in 2010, he moved to Norfolk with his wife of 38 years, Elizabeth.
He said: 'I worked as a labourer on the construction of the site and recall that while many people involved in the work were local, some also commuted through from Portsmouth.
'The work was very varied and involved helping out the tradesman as and when the help was needed. Developing mesothelioma has had a huge impact on me and my family and we just want to know how this happened and, ultimately, whether more should have been done to protect me. We would be hugely grateful if anyone with information could come forward.'
Rosemary Giles, the lawyer at Irwin Mitchell's Cambridge office who is representing Mr Waites, said: 'Our client's story is similar to a huge number we see every year, as it demonstrates how exposure to asbestos can have huge consequences and lead those affected to develop very serious conditions such as mesothelioma.
• Anyone with information about Mrs Carnegie is asked to contact Samantha Shaw on 01223 791 815 or samantha.shaw@IrwinMitchell.com or for information regarding Mr Waites, contact Rosemary Giles on 01223 791815 or rosemary.giles@IrwinMitchell.com.
Cape, formerly known as Cape Asbestos, declined to comment. Gee, formerly known as Gee, Walker and Slater, has been contacted for comment.