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Inquiry finds asbestos attributable to pensioner's deathPosted on 01/12/2014

A man from Southampton died as a result of an 'industrial disease', an inquiry has ruled.

John Milne, 92, was employed as a stevedore through the 1960s at Southampton Docks and had been battling cancer for several years. He died in September at Southampton General Hospital.

Responsible for loading and offloading hessian sacks packed with asbestos running on the South Africa-UK route for Union-Castle, Mr Milne would, along with his co-workers, have been working in conditions where asbestos was showering down on everyone ‘like snow’.

The inquiry also heard from Mr Milne's solicitors, who were claiming compensation for his conditions, that the former docker told them:

"It was not uncommon for the sacks to hit the sides of the ship and, because they were so tightly packed, the sacks would burst.”

The solicitor also told the inquiry that Mr Milne said before his death:

"The asbestos would shower down on everyone like snow and we would be covered with a fine powder.”

Such dangerous work is now banned. Anyone working with asbestos today, which is known to be carcinogenic, has to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as dust masks and safety goggles.

Workers on construction sites where asbestos is suspected to have been used, such as in many schools and hospitals built right up until 2000, are also mandated to wear PPE.

Thousands of people suffer from mesothelioma cancer as result of asbestos exposure throughout their professional lives, with around 5,000 deaths as a result every year.

The inquiry into Mr Milne's death recorded a verdict of 'death due to industrial disease'.

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