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Thursday, 12 March 2015

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Asbestos implicated in auto worker's death

Mesothelioma related to asbestos inhalation was the cause of a former automobile factory employee's death, according to an Oxford coroner.

Oxfordshire Coroner's Court heard that Martin Cross, of Eynsham, discovered he had the fatal condition in July 2013.

Mr Cross died at Oxford's Sobell House Hospice in September 2014. The 70 year-old was among "at least" 8 reported cases of mesothelioma in Oxfordshire this year.

The coroner, Darren Salter, was told that Mr Cross worked at the Cowley car factory between 1968 and 1992.

Asbestos clearly present at work

In a witness statement made prior to his death Mr Cross asserted that the factory's service pipes "were all lined with asbestos".

"I remember seeing dust particles in the air," Mr Cross stated. "Colleagues and I would have breathed it in." He also remembered seeing asbestos in cleaning tunnels.

Industrial disease

Dr Najib Rahman, a consultant in respiratory medicine, confirmed that Mr Cross had suffered from mesothelioma.

Mr Salter said he was satisfied that Mr Cross had been exposed to asbestos when he worked on the Cowley assembly line from the 1960s until about the 1980s. "My conclusion is, therefore, industrial disease," Mr Salter recorded.

40-year latency

A spokesperson for Mini, Rebecca Baxter, told the inquest that BMW took over the Cowley plant from the Rover Group 20 years ago. Most of the asbestos exposures happened prior to this date. The typical latency period for mesothelioma can be as high as 40 years.

Between 1967 and 1986 the plant was run by the now long-defunct British Leyland.

"As much as possible has been done by [Mini] to make sure that the insurance companies of the site's previous owners receive any claims as quickly as possible and will continue to do so," Ms Baxter said.

Mortality to peak within 5 years?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) previously estimated that between 2015 and 2020 asbestos-related deaths in Oxfordshire would peak. Such mortality would include workers at Cowley, at the Harwell nuclear plant and Didcot Power Station – all industrial complexes of the kind notorious for the presence of large quantities of asbestos.

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