Former Engineer and Pipefitter Seeks Justice After Asbestos Cancer Diagnosis

Lawyers Help Investigate Exposure To Deadly Dust

24.09.2012

A father of two coming to terms with the heartbreaking news he is suffering from an incurable asbestos-related cancer is appealing for his ex-work colleagues to help lawyers investigate why he was allowed to come into contact with the deadly dust.

Eddie Dawson, of County Durham, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2009, and the debilitating condition has prevented him from taking part in the sailing and biking hobbies he loves. He believes the condition was caused by exposure to asbestos during his career at Durham companies George Hauxwell and Sons Ltd and LG Philips Displays, which was also known as Mullard Durham and Philips Components Ltd.

The 63-year-old has now instructed industrial disease experts at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office as he appeals for his former colleagues to get in touch as they may hold vital information about the working conditions he endured.
After leaving school aged 15 in 1964, Eddie began working at engineering factory and iron foundry George Hauxwell and Sons Limited, based at Atherton Street, as an apprentice pipefitter and engineer.

His job involved working at different sites with a qualified tradesman where he was responsible for installing and maintaining heating systems. He worked at the company until he was made redundant in 1971.

He said: “We worked mainly in boiler houses in schools or hospitals in the North East and as an apprentice I had to remove the old asbestos lagging with a knife, hacksaw or a screwdriver. The work hacking off old asbestos from the pipes was dirty, dusty work usually in confided spaces where it was difficult to breathe.

“Once I’d chipped off the powdery grey asbestos I’d crush it up in a bucket with water to make a paste to repair patches of lagging.

“I remember working at the St John of God Hospital in Scorton, which is now closed, where we renovated radiators and pipe work for a new extension. The hospital also had a laundry next to the boiler house and I worked in there for a few months handling old asbestos and lagging new smaller areas of pipe work. I also worked at a care home at

Houghton Cut where I went several times during my employment with George Hauxwell and Sons to maintain the boiler ready for inspection. I’d have to drain the water, remove the manhole cover on top and jump inside to chip off the limescale and soot inside.

“It was absolutely filthy work which I did without any protective clothing.”

In 1973 Eddie started working for Mullard Durham at the Belmont Industrial Estate in Durham, which was later known as LG Philips Displays. He was employed between four and six months before production began at the factory to install conveyor belts, machinery and industrial ovens.

Eddie said: “In my early years at Philips I remember working on the biggest industrial oven at the factory, cutting holes in panels along the inside of the machine to help control the cooling process. There was asbestos insulation inside the ovens and the work was hot and done in a very confined space.
“I believe I was also exposed to asbestos while checking and fixing the fans used to cool the ovens, which were often dusty and clogged up with fibres.”

During his 30 years working at the factory he regularly came into contact with asbestos when extensions were built or the factory altered on the workshop floor, particularly when the factory was shut down during annual holidays in May, summer and at Christmas. Eddie’s work included installing new pipe work or machinery which involved knocking through partition walls made of asbestos.

He said: “Almost every year some changes were made to the layout of the factory because the company was upping production and so more machinery was brought in and changes to the layout of the workshop had to be made to accommodate it.

“During the shutdowns and at weekends the major demolition, construction and alterations went on and I worked alongside my own colleagues responsible for the pipework and many other contractors and craftsmen working flat out to try and get the job done in a short space of time.  We would just knock through walls, which created a lot of dust and I couldn’t help breathing it in.

“We didn’t know the partition walls were riddled with asbestos at the time and were never warned about how dangerous it was. I wasn’t encouraged to wear a face mask every day but standard paper masks were available if we were doing really dusty work.

Eddie left Mullards/Philips in 1978 for a year when he went to work as an engineering officer for Andrew Weir and Son, who owned Bank Line Ships. After his service with on Navy ship the Beach Bank he returned to Philips where he stayed for another 27 years.

Eddie first started to feel the symptoms of mesothelioma in August 2009. His GP referred him to specialists at Durham University Hospital where scans showed he was suffering from pneumonia and a shadow on his right lung.

He was sent to the Freeman Hospital where doctors took a biopsy and drained fluid from his lungs. He was then given the devastating news he had pleural plaques – areas of thick scar tissue lining his diaphragm – and mesothelioma, which are both linked to asbestos exposure.

His treatment has included four cycles of chemotherapy but, sadly there is no cure for the condition. He now feels constantly breathless and struggles to walk far.

He added: “The mesothelioma diagnosis was such a shock for me and my wife Jill and it’s particularly horrible to think this cancer has been lying dormant in my body for so many years.

“I’m scared about how the condition may affect me in future and I hope doctors can slow the cancer down. I already find it really hard to walk and the chemotherapy makes me feel dizzy and ill.  I have a boat in Hartlepool marina but I haven’t been able to sail recently.  I also used to love riding my mountain bike, but I can’t do that anymore either.

“I hope my old wok mates can help provide some more information about how and why I’ve been exposed to asbestos at work and that my experience raises awareness about how dangerous it can be.”

Isobel Lovett, an industrial disease expert at Irwin Mitchell, representing Eddie, said: “Eddie and his family are still coming to terms with his mesothelioma diagnosis and the effect it is having on his health. It’s a devastating illness and can be very distressing for the victims and their families.

“To help Eddie’s family get to the bottom of why he was exposed to asbestos we would like to hear from anyone who has information about the working conditions at George Hauxwell and Mullard Durham, also known as Philips Components and LG Philips Displays. Any settlement will help us get the justice Eddie and his family the justice they deserve and will ensure they are taken care of financially.”

Anyone with information should contact Isobel Lovett on 0191 2790104 or email isobel.lovett@irwinmitchell.com.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos, our expert mesothelioma lawyers could help you claim compensation. See our Asbestos-Related Disease Claims Guide for more information.