In a very tragic case, a medical researcher recently died of mesothelioma at the age of 33, despite having no obvious history of exposure to asbestos, the usual cause of this form of cancer. However, it has been suggested that even brief exposure could have been responsible.
Rose Wharton, a Cambridge-born medical statistician, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in September 2017 and died of the disease at her Oxford residence on 20th May. Coroner Darren Salter said the case was “very unusual” and that he had never seen another like it.
A “very different” instance of death from mesothelioma
The peculiarity of this case stems from the fact that, as reported by the NHS, mesothelioma is typically only diagnosed in people between the ages of 60 and 80. The illness tends to only develop in people with a decades-long history of working with asbestos.
However, given the lack of obvious signs that Ms Wharton was ever exposed to asbestos, Mr Salter commented to Oxford Coroner’s Court: “Mesothelioma normally affects men working as plumbers or heating engineers for 30 or 40 years, but this is very different from that.”
Uncertainty lingers about the cause of the disease
In a statement to the hearing, Ms Wharton’s family said that the otherwise “fit and healthy” young woman could only possibly have been exposed to asbestos when she built a school in Argentina 15 years ago, as an 18-year-old student on her gap year.
However, with the definite source of the asbestos exposure unconfirmed, Mr Salter recorded a narrative verdict, stating that the cancer’s cause was unknown. Ms Wharton, who worked at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford, was said to have been “fit and well” before the diagnosis, with asthma her only medical problem.
For your reassurance, we can test for signs of asbestos
In this instance, the materials with which Ms Wharton built the school in Argentina could have contained asbestos and, therefore, eventually led the cancer to develop. The microscopic fibres of asbestos can become lodged in the lungs and so damage them over time.
In the UK, the use of asbestos was entirely banned in 1999. However, the tragic story of this potentially asbestos-related death highlights the importance of asbestos air testing and similar services, as we can provide safely and efficiently here at Trident Asbestos Solutions.
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