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“A Good Dose” of Asbestos Can Cause Mesothelioma

On December 4, 2007, the Daily Mail reported that a 60-year old, hairdresser named Carol Heaton of Mapplewell, South Yorkshire, England, became the first hairdresser in the United Kingdom to be diagnosed with mesothelioma. Mrs. Heaton owned and worked in a hair salon for 33 years, between 1962 and 2006. Mrs. Heaton first showed signs of mesothelioma in May, 2005, when she developed chest pains and breathlessness. After the cancer cells were found in the sac lining of her chest, Mrs. Heaton’s health rapidly declined. Mrs. Heaton was treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the treatments were unsuccessful. Although, Mrs. Heaton fought courageously, she died peacefully on September 9, 2007.

A British inquest was held regarding Mrs. Heaton’s malignant mesothelioma. It was determined that Mrs. Heaton had been a hairdresser working in a hair salon for 33 years, she was a smoker, and that she had no obvious long-term exposure to asbestos in her job. Mrs. Heaton’s autopsy showed asbestos fibers in her body. The inquest heard testimony from Dr. Kim Suvarna, a consultant histopathologist who opined that it was more likely that Mr. Heaton was exposed to asbestos accidentally rather than through her occupation as a hairdresser. It was originally suspected that Mrs. Heaton’s exposures occurred from the heating elements in the hair salon which used to be insulated with asbestos. A British Health and Safety Laboratory had conducted asbestos emissions studies in hair salons and found that there was “no appreciable risk.” Therefore, Dr. Suvarna stated that this case was “an unfortunate case of asbestos contamination from environmental pollution.” Dr. Suvarna also stated “If you are unfortunate to get a good dose you are at risk of mesothelioma.” Dr. Suvarna opined that if the exposure in the hair salon was a significant factor there would be more cases of women and hairdressers with mesothelioma. Dr. Suvarna went on further to state that Mrs. Heaton could have contracted mesothelioma from walking down the street or from someone doing a bit of do it yourself. Dr. Suvarna stated that “asbestos is a very dangerous material.”

It is a well established fact that asbestos exposure is the most important risk factor in the development of malignant mesothelioma. During the inquest, the Assistant Deputy Coroner Donald Coutts-Wood stated that “we could all just be walking down the street and breathe in the asbestos fibers and it could be 20 or 30 years later before mesothelioma occurs.”

In the United States one good dose may sometimes be hard to identify. Most miners, construction workers, railroad workers, automobile mechanics, laborers, welders, and military veterans would be hard pressed to attempt to identify the dose (i.e., quantity and duration) of asbestos exposure that occurred 20 to 30 years before the diagnosis of mesothelioma. There are approximately 2000 reported cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year. Let the attorneys at Williams Kherkher assist you in identifying the dose that caused you or your loved ones mesothelioma. At Williams Kherkher our attorneys are concerned with your legal rights and are available to discuss your concerns relating to a mesothelioma diagnosis and occupational exposures.

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