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Family Of Playgroup Worker Launch Investigation Into Asbestos-Related Death

Industrial Illness Lawyers Help Family Seek Justice


The husband of a playgroup worker who died from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos when working at a Battersea school, is appealing to her ex-colleagues for details about the working conditions.

Margaret James, from Wandsworth, London, was 70 when she died in October last year, after being diagnosed with mesothelioma the year before when she started suffering from breathlessness.

The mother-of-two was a playgroup worker between about 1969 and 1996. For the majority of that time she worked at Old Chesterton School which was on 110 Battersea Park Road in Battersea. It has since been converted into flats. Margaret believed she was exposed to asbestos dust when working at the school. Once she knew she had asbestos cancer she told her children of how some of the boys at the school used to kick the walls and doors in the school corridor. At the end of each day she had to clean up in her classroom and she regularly had to sweep up dust and debris from crumbling asbestos lagging that was on the pipes in her classroom.

Her husband Kenneth has now instructed legal experts at Irwin Mitchell. They are appealing to any of Margaret’s former colleagues for additional details about the asbestos and working conditions at Old Chesterton School.

Alice Humphreys, an asbestos disease expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, said: “Despite asbestos being so commonly associated with industrial environments, this tragic case highlights how lethal asbestos dust is.

“Asbestos is present in more than 75 per cent of the country’s schools. We have long called for comprehensive action to be taken to improve the management and inspection process in relation to asbestos in schools, and call for a phased removal of asbestos from all schools with priority given to the removal of the most dangerous asbestos materials.”

The dangers relating to asbestos dust are simply too great to be ignored. Between just 2002 and 2010, 123 male teachers and 68 female teachers (aged 16-74) died of mesothelioma in Great Britain (HSE’s Mesothelioma Occupation Statistics: Male and female deaths aged 16-74 in Great Britain 2002-2010).

Between 1981 and 2005, approximately 2,663 men and 568 women in London died of mesothelioma, 78 men and 13 women in Wandsworth alone (HSE’s Mesothelioma Mortality in Great Britain: Analyses by Geographical Area and Occupation 2005).

Alice added: “Perhaps the most tragic aspect of Margaret’s story is that she was exposed to asbestos while doing a job she loved, at a school where she worked tirelessly for many years.

“We appeal to anyone with information about the presence of asbestos and working conditions at the school in those days, to get in touch, as their evidence could greatly assist us in securing justice for Margaret’s family.”

Kenneth said: “We were devastated when we were told Margaret’s diagnosis, and then to lose her just a year later was heartbreaking. It’s awful to think that she was exposed to asbestos by simply going to work, and to see her suffering was terrible. We want to ensure we get justice for her.”

Anyone who thinks they may be able to help is asked to contact Alice Humphreys at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors on 0207 421 4730 or email alice.humphreys@irwinmitchell.com.  

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