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King's Lynn woman ‘contracted industrial disease after washing contaminated overalls’, inquest told

A 73-year-old Lynn woman died of an industrial disease she contracted when washing her husband’s contaminated overalls, an inquest has heard.

Geraldine Rowell, of Gaskell Way, died at home on November 26 last year, just under a year after she had been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

At the hearing at Lynn’s coroner’s court on Friday, the inquest was told that Mrs Rowell believed she had never been exposed to asbestos during her own working life, but her husband Michael had been while working as an electrician at the College of West Anglia between 1997 and 2003.

College of West Anglia Exterior. (30934978)
College of West Anglia Exterior. (30934978)

In a statement she wrote ahead of her death, Mrs Rowell said: “I was not warned of any dangers of bringing [his overalls] home to be washed.”

She said the asbestos lagging her husband worked with was “in a very poor condition”.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Rowell said the college was the “only place” he came across asbestos, and he worked in a number of “old buildings” there.

“The boiler house was the worst, there was dust all over the floor,” he said.

“Unfortunately [Geraldine] had a habit of shaking my overalls. If I ever thought this was possible I would have never taken them home.”

Mr Rowell said his wife’s health had “never been 100 per cent”, having been born with partial cerebral palsy, but she “managed very well” until August 2018 when she developed a bad cough.

After a number of medical appointments, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 2018.

The inquest heard that Mrs Rowell “never really got over the chemotherapy” she had and she died on November 26, 2019.

Assistant coroner for Norfolk Johanna Thompson concluded that Mrs Rowell’s death was due to the industrial disease mesothelioma.

The College of West Anglia has been approached for comment but no response has been received at this time.

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