A GRANDMOTHER contracted a deadly strand of asbestosis and died after washing her husband’s work trousers, it is feared.
Doctors had been unable to diagnose Elsie Winter after her health deteriorated in 2008 and she developed problems with her lungs.
But two years later – after the housewife’s death on October 8 – medics discovered the 83-year-old former seamstress had been suffering from mesothelioma.
Now her family believe the health problems were triggered by the contact she had with her husband George’s work clothes, which were contaminated with asbestos dust.
A legal team acting for the family believe Mr Winter, who died in October 2005, came into contact with asbestos while working as a labourer at Chilton Council between March 1966 and April 1986.
He was responsible for carrying out repairs and maintenance on council-owned homes and properties in the area and he worked alongside other tradesmen who regularly handled asbestos.
Mr Winter, who died aged 81 of stomach cancer, also collected van loads of waste from building projects across the district and was responsible for disposing of the debris, which included asbestos.
Now Mr Winter’s son, Kevin, has launched legal action and has launched an appeal to trace colleagues who might know more about his father’s working conditions.
Last night engineer Kevin, who lives in Cleves Road, Ferryhill, County Durham, with his wife, Lynn, 53, said: “It was not until my mum died that we could do a post-mortem to find out exactly what caused her death.
“When we found out there didn’t seem to be anywhere she could have come into contact with asbestos. My dad had died so we couldn’t ask him. It’s absolutely devastating to think my mum suffered this terrible illness and died simply for washing my dad’s work overalls. I hope that my mum’s case shows the devastating impact asbestos can have on people’s lives, even for those who didn’t work with the deadly dust every day.
“I really want answers about why my dad, and indirectly my mum, was allowed to come into contact with asbestos.” Mrs Winter married her husband in 1948.
She died two years ago after battling the effects of mesothelioma for two years before her death. The couple had two children and six grandchildren.
Kevin, whose sister Carol Francis, 61, lives in Spennymoor, said: “I’m sure my dad would have been devastated to know he put mum in danger like this and would have done everything to protect her from it if only he’d known how dangerous it is. Hopefully with the help of his ex-workmates we can get my parents the justice they deserve.”
Roger Maddocks, an industrial disease specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office who is representing Kevin, said: “Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer which can take decades after exposure to asbestos to develop.
“This is a tragic case in which a loving wife died from a devastating and incurable disease simply because she washed her husband’s filthy work clothes. We hope that George’s ex-work colleagues will help us investigate why more wasn’t done by the council.”
Anyone who worked with Mr Winter between March 1966 and April 1986 should contact Roger Maddocks on 0191 279 0095 or email email@example.com