Widow dies 70 years after inhaling asbestos

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A WIDOW died 70 years after first being exposed to blue asbestos as a six-year-old, an inquest was told yesterday.

Herridge, 76, of Ryde, Isle of Wight, used to play outside the Roberts asbestos textile factory 200 yards from her childhood home in Armley, Leeds.

Alfred Wild, a friend who lived in the same area, told the inquest: 'In those days we would play in the waste ground in shorts and would be covered in the dust. It got in our houses.'

About 40 people who lived near the factory, which shut in 1959, have died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma, the inquest was told. Even a single fibre from asbestos can lie dormant in the lungs for many years before suddenly activating as the incurable cancer.

Until now, doctors have said that death from mesothelioma has been only known to occur between 20 and 50 years after initial exposure. Because the case stretched medical knowledge of mesothelioma, Dr Charles Mobbs, the Isle of Wight's assistant deputy coroner, said he could not return an industrial-disease verdict.

'It is quite clear she was exposed to asbestos dust as a child and I note that the latent period is not normally given as being longer than 50 years - but in this case it was,' Dr Mobbs said. He returned an open verdict on Mrs Herridge, who died in February.