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Former Peterlee factory worker and shop assistant appeals to former colleagues following exposure to asbestos

A retired former factory worker and shop assistant is appealing to ex-colleagues to help with a legal battle against her former employers, having recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a condition caused by exposure to harmful asbestos dust, decades ago.

Mrs Margaret Ward, 77, from Peterlee, County Durham, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2015 having developed a persistent cough the previous September. Her condition was diagnosed after she had to be hospitalised in December 2014 suffering from pneumonia.

Her mesothelioma makes her so breathless that she is now dependent on oxygen. Her illness has already had a significant impact on her daily life.

Margaret has now instructed expert industrial disease lawyers, Hodge Jones & Allen based in London to investigate where and why she was exposed to asbestos dust and to find out if more could have been done by her former employers to protect her from the deadly substance.

She told her lawyers that she may have been exposed to asbestos at work with Clover Fire Surrounds Limited at the North East Industrial Estate, Peterlee, where she worked between approximately 1963 and 1973, applying stain to fire surrounds.

She then moved to work at McGregors’ Wallpaper Manufacturers, also located on the North East Industrial Estate, where she worked as a machine operative until closure of the factory in around 1980.

Margaret is now appealing to her former colleagues at these companies to come forward to help with the investigation into her exposure to asbestos and to provide details of the working conditions they experienced, the presence and use of asbestos at either factory, as well as any measures put in place to limit their exposure to asbestos dust and fibres.

Margaret, who has two sons, 4 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren, now believes she first developed symptoms of mesothelioma a few years ago when she became quite breathless, though at the time, she was diagnosed with asthma.

She has had fluid drained from her lung and underwent biopsies at James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, where her condition was diagnosed. She needs oxygen at home and when her family take her out in their cars. Her mobility is severely limited by the condition and she experiences pain and a loss of appetite.

Commenting on her case, Margaret said “The diagnosis of mesothelioma came as a complete shock to the whole family; we are still devastated by the news but are trying to deal with it as best we can. I do feel pain but am trying to fight this cancer and keep on with my life while I can.

I’ve always enjoyed gardening but I’ve had to employ a gardener because I can no longer take care of it. I am much more dependent on my family for help than I previously was. I am lucky to have them around me.

I just hope that other people who worked at these factories can help my legal team to investigate where I was exposed to asbestos, so that I can finally get the answers I need.”

Isobel Lovett, a Partner and Head of Industrial Disease at Hodge Jones and Allen, representing Margaret, said: “Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer which causes so much distress for victims like Margaret who worked in factories where we believe asbestos was present and used.

Sadly, many employers did not do enough to manage the risks of asbestos exposure despite being aware of how dangerous it is. It is only right that those workers affected by exposure to asbestos through no fault of their own are entitled to justice from their former employers.

We hope to speak to as many of Margaret’s former colleagues as possible, so that we can prove exactly where she was exposed to asbestos and identify where her employers should have done more to protect her from its harmful effects”.

Margaret is asking anyone who has information to contact her solicitor Isobel Lovett at Hodge Jones & Allen on 020 7874 8502 or email ilovett@hja.net.

28 August 2015 – since our call for information Margaret Ward has passed away. Our thoughts are with her family at this very sad time.