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Retired school cook died from cancer after asbestos exposure

Sandwell | News | Published:

A retired school cook died from cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a coroner has ruled.

Senior Black Country coroner Zafar Siddique ruled that Marjorie Lillian Birks died due to industrial disease.

Mrs Birks, who was known as Lillian, died at Sandwell General Hospital on July 9, aged 81.

Mr Siddique said a post-mortem found that Mrs Birks, of St Luke's Road, Wednesbury, died from a malignant mesothelima, a rare form of cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos.

Pathologist Dr Nithian Nair said that while his examination found no trace of asbestos, it was his opinion that this was the most likely cause of the cancer.

Mrs Birks' son, Tim Birks-Kindred, said his father had worked as a builder, and handled materials which probably which probably would not be considered safe today.

"When she was washing his overalls, she used to shake the dust off them, so it is possible she could have inhaled dust particles that way," said Mr Birks-Kindred, who added that his mother had also worked in school kitchens before she retired.

"She worked through some of the schools while they were undergoing refurbishment, so it is possible she might have come into contact with it that way."

Mr Birks-Kindred added that the family got in touch with Asbestos Support West Midlands after his mother had been diagnosed and the organisation had made an interim payment of £13,000.

However, after contacting a solicitor, Mrs Birks was advised it was not worth pursuing a claim as the interim payment would have to be returned.

Mr Siddique said he was satisfied that Mrs Birks' death was primarily caused by a malignant mesothelioma due to asbsestos exposure, with pneumonia and heart disease also being contributory factors.

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