Legacy of year on the gas-mask assembly line: Susan Watts talks to a retired Boots worker who intends to sue for QBY: SUSAN WATTS

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The Independent Online
DORIS ROE only leaves the house twice a week. 'I can't breathe too well, but I do try to get out just to get a bit of shopping,' she said.

Mrs Roe, from Beeston, a Nottingham suburb, is seriously ill. In 1970, her GP of 25 years told her that all her problems could stem from her exposure to asbestos, but she says she has not asked too many questions.

She worked for Boots for nearly 30 years, and on the gas-mask assembly line for about a year. 'I wired the nozzles on to the container. The filter pads were in the bit I was wiring. Someone further down the line had to wipe the dust off them.

'I have never been well since I worked on the gas masks. I have had illnesses on and off . . . breathing trouble mainly. I feel puffed out.

'In 1970, the doctors did lots of biopsies. They said they had confirmed what it was, but they never told me anything. They gave me a blue card and said I had to have an X-ray every year.

'I couldn't understand why I was still getting sick pay because I had had my 26 weeks. The welfare officer told me I had been given 'special consideration'.' Mrs Roe said she did not spend any of the money 'because I didn't want to have to pay it all back later'.

She added: 'My doctor told me soon afterwards that a Dr Jones would want to see me, but he never showed up. He said there were 600 of us.

'Boots hasn't acknowledged anything. When I saw their advertisements on the televison saying 'we care' I had to laugh. They don't care two hoots about the pensioners after they've given their lives to the company. I think Boots should compensate their workers. They make a hell of a profit. It isn't as if they can't afford it.'

Mrs Roe was a member of the work's committee that persuaded Boots to introduce pensions for its married women employees as well as the men. She received her gold watch from Boots in 1972 and retired in 1976.

She has one son, aged 52, but she does not talk to him about her problems. 'He has his own life to lead, and I don't like to trouble anybody. But this year I really haven't been too good,' she said.

(Photograph omitted)

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