By a staff reporter
A BRITISH PENSIONER exposed to industrial quantities of deadly asbestos dust decades ago has been awarded more than £100,000 (121,825 euros) in damages after contracting terminal cancer.
Expat Norman Turner – who now lives in Paphos, from where he launched legal action – endured “filthy, disgusting” conditions during more than three years working as a training officer in a chemicals factory in Liverpool, between 1966 and 1969.
The 67-year-old recalled how a “fog” of toxic dust hung in the atmosphere while he worked and piles of dangerous material collected on surfaces around the site.
“I took the job because I wanted to better myself. I thought it would be a good place to work because it was a big employer. But the conditions were terrible,” said Turner, speaking at the conclusion of his civil case against his former employers Courtaulds, now known as Akzo Nobel.
“The asbestos dust was thick like a fog. I mainly worked in the nylon section and it was everywhere. Most evenings when I got home from the factory I would have to rinse out my nostrils.
“I knew the conditions were bad for us, they were totally filthy and disgusting. But I had no idea just how dangerous it was. I can remember complaining to the bosses that we need better ventilation to clear out the dust because it was hard to breath.”
Turner, originally from Bootle, was employed as a training officer ensuring staff knew how to operate the large industrial machinery in the factory and how to escape in the event of a fire.
But little did he know that he was surrounded by a greater danger. The building’s pipe work was lagged with asbestos which showered down when maintenance work was carried out. The poisonous dust was left to gather on the floor for at least a day before being cleaned up, Turner claimed.
“The pipe work was covered in asbestos and was old and crumbly. I also remembered the pipes being repaired and workmen cutting the lagging off. It showered dust down. Chunks of the lagging would also fall off from time to time. The dust was everywhere but there was no warning about the dangers.”
Turner, who did not want to be photographed, left Courtaulds to join the army. After serving in the forces, Turner set up his home in Leeds where he worked as a porter in St James Hospital until retiring to Cyprus seven years ago.
It was not until April last year that the fit and active pensioner realised his heath was rapidly deteriorating.
He found himself breathless just taking his regular stroll along the Paphos coast. Doctors immediately recognised the signs of asbestos related mesothelioma.
X-Ray’s revealed a dark shadow down one side of the lung and a pale shadow over half of the other.
Doctors drained four litres of fluid from his lungs. The widower, who lost his wife Margaret to cancer in 1986, has now undergone seven rounds of debilitating chemotherapy which has helped shrink the size of the cancerous growths.
But he said remaining as active as possible and positive was helping him to stave off the crippling onset of the deadly disease.
“When the doctor told me I had mesothelioma I knew it was serious. I know it was bad news. The medical treatment has been good here in Cyprus but everything costs,” he said. “This payment was crucial just to keep my head above water.”
He said he was determined to remain positive.
“If I had one piece of advice for anyone undergoing chemotherapy it would be to get up and walk. Do anything active, do whatever you can. It left me feeling lethargic but I do as much as I can. The doctors told me that it would be hard but if I could stay active it really helps the treatment work.”
“Although Norman’s amazing positivity is helping him cope with his condition, he is now living with the consequences of being exposed to asbestos all those years ago. Asbestos related cases are a ticking timebomb,” said Turner’s lawyer, Louise Larkin, of London-based, Slater & Gordon.
“Norman’s life will be cut short and he faces significant medical bills in Cyprus because of the conditions his former employer subjected him to.”
Larkin explained that Turner’s case also demonstrated that despite having been exposed to asbestos decades earlier, victims could still get justice – even if they live in another country thousands of miles away.
“Living abroad should not be considered a barrier if there is past exposure to asbestos in the UK. There may be other expats who do not realise that they can claim in the UK.”