Asbestos lung disease
A headteacher is taking legal action against his former council bosses after he contracted a deadly asbestos lung disease.
Robert Fleming believes he caught the fatal condition mesothelioma through exposure to asbestos during his 14 years in charge of a County Durham school.
Mr Fleming, 71, who lives in Darlington, was headteacher at Tudhoe Grange Comprehensive, near Spennymoor, between 1976 and 1990, and has begun legal proceedings against the local education authority, Durham County Council.
He hopes his actions will highlight the dangers of asbestos in schools and prevent further cases such as his occurring.
The revelation comes only days after a compensation claim was launched against Northumberland County Council by the family of a village schoolteacher who died of mesothelioma in 2004.
Mr Fleming, who also worked at Branksome School, in Darlington, and Billingham School, on Teesside, was diagnosed with the aggressive lung cancer in December 2004 and has undergone chemo and radiotherapy treatment.
He said: "I think, particularly with the chemotherapy, the idea is to relieve the symptoms, and perhaps some extension of the natural life.
"It may be only a few months longer than what you might normally get.
"The specialist who examined me asked me if I had ever worked with asbestos."
Mr Fleming recalled that, during his time at Tudhoe Grange, the heating system used to break down and he was regularly called to the boiler room, where asbestos was present in lagging.
On another occasion, he said leaking rainwater caused ceiling tiles to collapse, exposing asbestos-coated pipes.
Mr Fleming added: "I was at the school a long time and there were no asbestos awareness policies.
"I was certainly taken aback when it was made known to me that I'd been working in those conditions."
Asbestos lung disease case under investigation
Irwin Mitchell solicitors are investigating Mr Fleming's case.
Solicitor Neil Wilkinson said: "Mr Fleming's diagnosis is devastating for him and his family.
"The presence of asbestos has been confirmed in Tudhoe Grange School in lagging in the boiler room and assembly hall.
"I am investigating the extent to which asbestos dust leaked into the school itself, and would like to hear from anyone who spent time in the school during the time Mr Fleming worked there."
A county council spokes-man said it was the authority's policy not to comment on legal proceedings.
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