Grandfather Exposed To Substance During His Career
A former lab technician is searching for information in a battle for justice against his former employers after he was diagnosed with an asbestos-related lung disease almost a decade after retiring.
Geoffrey Maud, who lives in Stockton-on-Tees with his wife Margaret, developed pleural thickening as a result of his work with the deadly material in steel plants and chemical plants during his career, which spanned nearly half a century.
The 72-year-old grandfather of two is now working with industrial disease experts at Irwin Mitchell to gather evidence on the conditions at Dorman Long in Redcar; British Titan Products (latterly known as Tioxide Ltd) in Haverton Hill and Billingham-based Cleveland Chemicals Ltd, where he worked in chemist and technician roles.
He believes he came into contact with the deadly dust whilst working at the plants as he used to wear asbestos-insulated gloves and use equipment such as asbestos string. He was also regularly surrounded by poorly maintained pipes covered in asbestos lagging, which were often disturbed and re-lagged causing the dust to enter the air around him.
Geoffrey, who has also recovered from an unrelated stroke in 2005, said: “I joined Dorman Long in 1956 straight from school. I didn’t know anything about the dangers of asbestos, so when we were asked to use the communal asbestos gloves I didn’t think anything of it.”
“The gloves were white, frayed and dusty. The asbestos cord which we had to use to allow us to carry the flasks was difficult to use. I had to cut lengths of it to wrap around hot flasks, but it would often just disintegrate, causing asbestos fibres to float into the air.”
In 1961, Geoffrey started work for British Titan as a development lab technician, progressing to become a pilot plant supervisor.
“With this being an experimental plant, we were always moving equipment around, and when we did, this involved moving the asbestos-lagged steam pipes that were used for heating. This would disturb even more asbestos dust. We were surrounded by it. I left in 1969, and when I returned in 1989, it was still much the same.”
Geoffrey joined Cleveland Chemicals in 1993 where he stayed for a decade until he retired. He believes he came into contact with asbestos when a neighbouring factory was cordoned off and cleared of asbestos. He also says the plant was full of asbestos-lagged pipe work which was in poor condition.
Industrial disease expert Isobel Lovett, from Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, said: “Pleural thickening is a serious illness which can be very distressing for the victims and their families. More than 2,000 people die from asbestos-related illnesses every year despite the fact employers knew how dangerous it was, even in the 1950s and 1960s.
“Geoffrey wasn’t given any protective clothing or warned about the dangers of asbestos during his career and it is awful that he is now ill simply because he went to work every day.”
“We’re therefore keen to speak to anyone who worked at any of Geoffrey’s former employers who might be able to provide any information on the working conditions at the plants during Geoffrey’s time there. This will help us get Geoffrey the justice he deserves.”
Geoffrey first started to notice there was a problem when he felt breathless, one of the main symptoms of the lung condition, three years ago. He found it increasingly difficult to walk, and simple everyday tasks like getting dressed make him feel tired and breathless.
After initially being diagnosed with respiratory disease in 2009, Geoffrey’s condition worsened. He started having regular check-ups at North Tees Hospital. Sadly, in 2012, he was told he had pleural thickening caused by past asbestos exposure.
Geoffrey added: “After I recovered from my stroke in 2005 I thought the worst of my health problems were behind me.”
“When I was told that my condition was a result of asbestos exposure, I was shocked and frustrated that I couldn’t do anything about it.
“I just couldn’t believe that all my hard work throughout my career had basically been contributing to my illness, and that no-one warned me that it might have serious consequences on my health in the future.”
If you have any information on the companies mentioned please contact Isobel Lovett on 0191 279 0104 or email Isobel.Lovett@IrwinMitchell.com.