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18th February 2016
Inquest rules Elizabeth Belt’s death was a result of industrial disease, after years spent pinning pupils’ work to boards resulting in asbestos dust inhalation
A 1970s classroom – many had asbestos boards until the substance was banned in the 1980s.
A primary school teacher who contracted cancer after decades of exposure to asbestos used as pinboards for her pupil’s art work died as a result of an industrial disease, a coroner has ruled.
Elizabeth Belt died aged 68 in September after a three-year battle with mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer linked to asbestos dust. In a detailed statement given before her death, Belt recalled her years spent in schools exposed to asbestos before it was banned in the 1980s.
The statement, submitted to the inquest into her death, said she regularly pinned children’s drawings and written work to asbestos boards in classrooms at various schools in north Lincolnshire.
Belt’s statement said that at her first teaching post in 1968, at Brigg Country primary school, the classrooms “would seem a bit dusty”. She said: “There may have been exposure to asbestos at the infant section of the school.
“There were large sections of boarding where the children’s work was displayed and there would be a change of work every two to three weeks.”
A decade later, Belt began work at Baysgarth school in Barton-upon-Humber. Her statement said: “They had that same boarding and there was constant pinning and removing. There was considerable use of a staple gun.”
The coroner Paul Kelly recorded a verdict of death as a result of an industrial disease. Addressing Belt’s family at the inquest last week, Kelly said: “I have no doubt that Mum contracted malignant mesothelioma as a result of ingesting asbestos while working as a teacher at various schools in north Lincolnshire between 1968 and 1995.”
The inquest heard that North Lincolnshire council’s insurers had accepted a claim with Belt’s family. The family have not revealed the level of compensation.
Speaking after the inquest, Belt’s daughter Charlotte Shearwood said she wanted to raise awareness about mesothelioma. “It is a horrible, horrible disease. There is obviously a generation that worked with her in the same places. I suppose we are all angry, but I just think our sadness outweighs it.”
A North Lincolnshire council spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts are with Elizabeth’s family and friends. Inquests are difficult and sad occasions, but at least her family now have closure and can start to move on with their lives.”
Mesothelioma UK, which supports people with the disease, welcomed the verdict and said it highlighted the increasing incidence of mesothelioma cases in the UK.
Liz Darlison, the charity’s director of services, said: “This is a preventable, currently incurable, occupational disease. Many of our schools, public buildings and homes still contain asbestos and we owe it to future generations to address this public health disaster now.”
She added: “Sincere condolences to Elizabeth Belt’s family and friends and thank you for sharing the experience which is a powerful message to us all. As a nation we have a humane responsibility to do more to improve outcomes for those affected and to make this disease history.”
In 2013 there were 2,123 male and 415 female deaths associated with Mesothelioma, a legacy of past occupational exposures to asbestos.HSE, Health & Safety Executive