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Legal Victory for the Widow of Former Chemistry Lecturer

Widow Of Former Chemistry Lecturer Wins Legal Victory



The widow of a former chemistry lecturer who died as a result of the experiments he performed during his classes has secured a significant legal victory.

Shocking details have emerged of laboratory experiments involving the use of asbestos materials, which were recommended by an approved chemistry course book in the 1970s.

James Baden Sellwood, who died aged 73 of Mesothelioma in November 2008, was oblivious to the dangers of asbestos and carried out the experiments whilst working as a senior lecturer at York St John University from 1963 to 1975.

Mr Sellwood’s lectures and laboratory demonstrations were based on the textbook, “Chemistry, Collected Experiments” which was published by the Nuffield Foundation in 1967 and which advocated the use of asbestos mats, gauzes, wool, paper and rope in a large number of laboratory experiments.

Isobel Lovett, associate solicitor and industrial disease specialist at Irwin Mitchell, has secured judgment for Mr Sellwood’s wife, Mary.

Isobel said: “As a senior chemistry lecturer, Mr Sellwood would regularly use asbestos materials and items of equipment containing asbestos, to demonstrate experiments to student chemistry teachers who in turn would carry out these demonstrations in school lessons. 

“As these products were used and their condition deteriorated, they released lethal dust into the air. Mr Sellwood was totally oblivious as to the dangers of using these materials and as he was not supplied with any form of respiratory equipment, it was inevitable that he would inhale the deadly particles.

“Unfortunately we are beginning to see more and more work-related cases where innocent men and women whom you would not necessarily associate with coming into regular contact with asbestos are beginning to develop asbestos-related illnesses. 

“For too long employers were able to needlessly expose their staff to dangerous substances such as asbestos without providing even a basic level of protection. It is only now, decades later, that we are truly learning the extent of the exposure and how many innocent victims are having their lives torn apart by their former employers’ negligence.”

Mrs Sellwood added: “Jim and I were both devastated when he received his diagnosis. Before his death Jim remarked on the irony that the subject he loved and his role in imparting knowledge to students is what would ultimately kill him. 

“Neither of us could believe that a substance which Jim worked with so many years ago could suddenly re-enter his life and have such devastating effects – within nine months of first experiencing symptoms Jim was taken from us. I never imagined it would happen so quickly and I was absolutely shattered when he died.

“The settlement will not bring back my husband, but I am pleased that the organisation which Jim loyally worked for over forty years have recognised the conditions that led to his death.”

Mr Sellwood worked for York St John University from 1963, where it was initially known as St John College York. During his time there, Mr Sellwood’s role went from Senior Lecturer to Principal Lecturer in Chemistry before transferring to the Administration Department at Deputy Registrar and finally Academic Registrar from which he retired in 1992.

Mr Sellwood’s former employer has been ordered to pay an interim payment with a substantial settlement to be agreed in the New Year.