The theme of International Women’s Day 2023 is #EmbraceEquity. To mark this day, Lucy Strong and Aimee Boundford from the Asbestos claims team look at some of the women who have embraced equity in the mesothelioma community and the impact for good that this has had on present day mesothelioma sufferers and their families.
Women and the use of contaminated talc
In recent years, there has been an increasing awareness concerning the presence of asbestos fibres in cosmetic talc. Talc and asbestos are naturally occurring silicate minerals that are similar in form. Both minerals were historically mined in close proximity, which led to the contamination of cosmetic talc with asbestos.
Predominantly, it is the female population who regularly use and come into contact with products which contain talc. Women who use cosmetic talc, including talcum powders, baby powders and face powders are often unaware of the dangers associated with these products. Nevertheless, asbestos-contaminated cosmetic talc products continue to be sold by cosmetic companies and used by millions of women worldwide.
Sadly, we are seeing an increase in the number cases involving women who suffer from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions where the only known exposure to asbestos is through the use and application of cosmetic talc. In contrast to many women who were historically exposed to asbestos through the laundering of their husband’s asbestos- contaminated work overalls, we see women who have used cosmetic talc throughout their adolescence and early adulthood receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma at a very young age.
Women therefore continue to be at the forefront of the mesothelioma and asbestos- related disease agenda as victims of contaminated talc exposure.
With this in mind we take a look back at some of the women who been at the forefront of asbestos related disease in years gone by.
Nellie Kershaw was the first reported medical case of an asbestos related death in 1924, having died from asbestosis. Nellie, from Rochdale started working in the industry aged only 12, transferring to the Turner Brothers Asbestos as a spinner in 1917. She started experiencing health problems at the age of 29 but continued to work with asbestos until 1922, when she sadly passed away.
The inquest of her death changed the way asbestos was viewed forever. When Nellie’s death certificate was issued on 2nd April 1924, it cited ‘fibrosis of the lungs due to the inhalation of mineral particles’ as the cause of death, paving the way for what it known today as ‘Asbestosis’.
This led to the publication of the first Asbestos Industry Regulations 1931, a crucial development of statutory duty on those working within the industry. This would eventually lead to more far-reaching statutory duties in the form of the Factories Act 1961, Asbestos Regulations 1969 and Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987. These are the regulations which lawyers tend to rely upon when pursuing claims on behalf of mesothelioma and asbestos related disease sufferers in the twenty first century.
Nora Dockerty’s family were the first in the UK to receive compensation for her death from an asbestos related disease in 1952. Nora worked at Turner Brothers Asbestos in Rochdale for 13 years. The law firm of Messrs John Whittle, Robinson & Bailey were instructed to act for the family. The case was finally settled in January 1952 when Turner & Newall, Turner Brother Asbestos’ parent company, paid the sum of £375 with costs.
The Dockerty family paved the way for many thousands of families to follow in their footsteps and pursue companies across the UK for their negligence and failure to protect their workers; men and women alike.