Family appeal launched after retired nurse and grandmother from Morecambe dies after inhaling asbestos fibres
The family of a retired nurse who died two weeks after being told she had asbestos-related cancer has launched an appeal to find anyone who worked with her.
In a cruel twist of fate it’s believed great-grandmother June Wallace was exposed to the lethal fibres on many occasions – not only while working at Lancaster Moor hospital but when cleaning her husband’s overalls soon after they married.
Mum-of-three June, who was 74 when she died, worked at the specialist psychiatric hospital for 30 years, starting as a cleaner in 1969 before becoming a nursing assistant a few years later.
Daughter Debbie Rodgers said: “My mum was very popular. She enjoyed her work. Initially she was responsible for cleaning the entire hospital which was very old. It’s during these duties that we think she would have inhaled asbestos fibres.
“We also believe mum was at risk earlier in her life when working in the Woodeaves and Decorous Garments textile factories in Lancaster in the 1960s, and as a result of my dad’s work at Lansil's factory, which later became Courtaulds.
“When they first got married they didn’t have a washing machine so mum did all of the laundry by hand. The first thing that she had to do before washing dad’s clothes was to shake out his dusty overalls together with the clothes he wore underneath in the kitchen and my dad swept up the dust. We’ve since learned that the shaking of clothes and sweeping would mean that the asbestos fibres became airborne.”
Debbie has now launched a civil case with law firm Slater and Gordon and is appealing to people who may have worked alongside her mum, who lived in Westgate, at Decorous Garments, Woodeaves or Lancaster Moor to come forward.
She added: “It breaks my heart to think that mum was exposed to something so deadly time and time again and nobody protected her.
“Before she died she was very active – she would go on cruises with her friend and loved gardening. Prior to the cancer being detected she complained of a pain in her chest and we suggested it could be a pulled muscle. We had no idea what was going to happen and it was a great shock to us all.
“My mum wasn’t aware that she had come into contact with something that would go on to kill her – she died two weeks after being told she had mesothelioma. That’s why we are keen to hear from anyone who worked with her at Lancaster Moor or from her time working in textiles.”
Jordan Bell, specialist industrial disease lawyer from Slater and Gordon, said it’s vital Mrs Wallace’s family get the answers they deserve and anyone who knows anything about the asbestos used at the hospitals to come forward.
He said: “When people hear of deaths arising from asbestos exposure they think of trades people who have had direct contact with the deadly dust but so often that isn’t the case.
“Mrs Wallace was a mother who was probably exposed to asbestos when she did her husband’s laundry and when working in an auxiliary role in a hospital.
“Mrs Wallace dedicated her life to caring for sick people in a role that is to this day underpaid and undervalued. Her family feel so angry that even the most basic levels of safety weren’t adhered to. Even today approximately nine out of 10 NHS trusts say they have hospitals containing asbestos.”
Anybody who worked with June, who was also known as June Rodgers, at Decorous Garments, Woodeaves or Lancaster Moor, or has information about asbestos in these locations, please call Jordan Bell on 0161 383 3436 or email [email protected]