South Shields Mum Appeals For Former Factory Colleagues To Help Investigation

Former Factory Worker Suffers From Incurable Illness 40 Years After Exposure To Asbestos

18.02.2013

A grandmother of three suffering from asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma she believes was caused by exposure to the deadly dust at the South Shields factories she worked in as a teenager has joined forces with specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the working conditions she endured.

Sandra Anne Peterson (whose maiden name was Raine), of South Shields, was given the devastating news in April 2012 that she is suffering from mesothelioma and she is now hoping to trace her ex work colleagues who may be able to provide information about how she came into contact with asbestos.

The 57-year-old, who has one son, two step sons and three grandsons, believes she was exposed to asbestos while working at Filtrona UK, which was based on the Bede industrial estate in South Shields from 1973 to 1975.

She also believes she came into contact with asbestos while working at the Plessy’s electrical component factory, based at Eldon Street in South Tyneside from 1975 to 1976, where she was responsible for making circuit boards.

Roger Maddocks, a partner in the industrial illness team at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office representing her, said: “Asbestos-related diseases are the biggest occupational killer of all time and it can take decades for victims like Sandra to develop debilitating conditions which really impact on their quality of life.

“Sandra and her family are still coming to terms with the sad news she will never recover from this terrible illness, caused by simply going to work at these factories some 40 years ago when she was a teenager. It’s important that we speak to her ex colleagues from Filtrona and Plessy’s who may be able to shed light on how the factories used asbestos and the working conditions she endured, so that we can get her the justice she deserves.”

Filtrona UK had a number of factories on the Bede industrial estate, which manufactured components and machines for making cigarettes. Sandra began working at the factory age 17 as a machine operator and was responsible for making paper cigarette filters. She believes the ‘slurry’ or coating used in the manufacturing process contained asbestos fibres.

Sandra also believes asbestos was commonly used to insulate electrical components at Plessy’s.
Sandra first started to show the symptoms of mesothelioma in early 2012 when she began suffering from breathlessness, chest pains and lethargy. Her GP sent her for tests and scans at South Tyneside Hospital where doctors confirmed she was suffering from mesothelioma in April 2012.

Before Sandra fell ill she used to enjoy swimming, Zumba classes, riding her bike and enjoyed walking holidays in the Lake District. Now she struggles to walk and needs help from her husband with jobs around the house.

She said: “The work I did at Filtrona was really dirty and dusty and the atmosphere was particularly muggy, as you can imagine from a factory which had lots of machinery for making cigarettes. The factory buildings were nothing more than sheds really and I mainly worked in one of the smaller ones which was no higher than a house.

“The job was really dirty and my overalls, face and hands got covered in fine, black dust – it even got up my nose and in my hair. I believe it contained the asbestos fibres which have made me sick.

“I also believe I came into contact with asbestos at Plessy’s and although the working environment was much cleaner there, I believe asbestos was used to insulate the circuit boards we made.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to think that my illness may have been caused by working at these factories when I was a teenager. I was completely unaware of how dangerous asbestos could be back then.

“I worked closely with a lot of people at the factories and I hope they will come forward with information to help the investigation so that I can get some financial security for my family and justice for what I’ve been through before it’s too late.”

Anyone who worked at Filtrona UK or Plessy’s in South Shields in the 1970s should contact Roger Maddocks at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office on 0191 279 0095 or email roger.maddocks@irwinmitchell.com.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, our expert mesothelioma solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Asbestos-Related Disease Claims Guide for more information.