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Woman dies from asbestos-related cancer after years of washing husband's clothes

By James Pugh | Ironbridge | Health | Published:

A woman died from a rare asbestos-related cancer after washing her husband’s dirty work clothes for decades.

Maureen, front, pictured with her family

Maureen Malpass, from Coalbrookdale near Telford, never worked directly with asbestos herself but it is believed she suffered the devastating effects through second-hand contact with the toxic dust fibres in her laundry.

In the mid-1970s Maureen's husband Tom worked on pipes as a rigger at Ironbridge's coal-fired power station.

Employed by Foster Wheeler John Brown Boilers, Tom also worked at Sand Drakelow in Burton-upon-Trent and came into contact with asbestos throughout his working life without being aware of the dangers.

A number of his former workmates have succumbed to asbestos-related deaths, while Maureen died in early 2017 just four months after being diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer which develops in the lining of the abdomen after asbestos exposure.

The mother-of-two had initially become ill in 2016 after a family holiday in Cyprus, complaining of being uncomfortable when sitting down.

'I can't help feeling angry'

Tom has now spoken of his devastation at losing the love of his life and the immense guilt he feels for the part he played.

The 70-year-old said: “I can’t help feeling angry but also incredibly guilty that I caused it.

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"At the time I didn’t realise what I was bringing home and the destructive impact it would have on our lives.

“In the early days we were not told about the risks. I wasn’t aware that it was a death sentence at the time.

"I’ve had a lot of hospital checks myself and they haven’t come across anything yet but it just seems so utterly unfair. It was beyond our control.”

Heartbreaking

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Tom is appealing to his former colleagues to get in touch with any information.

Tom added: “It was a different time then. We had no protective equipment or overalls and it was common practice to take your work clothes home.

“Back then you just wore your own clothes and overalls. I didn’t have any idea of what I was actually bringing home or what it would ultimately do to my wife.

"It’s heartbreaking to think all those years she was at risk and we didn’t have a clue.”

The couple married in 1969 and Maureen spent years washing Tom’s work clothes on a weekly basis.

The grandmother-of-four would shake out the dusty clothes in the garden before using the family’s twin tub washing machine.

Tom paid tribute to his wife, saying: “Maureen wasn’t one to complain and was very stoic throughout. We didn’t have a clue what it was and were completely shocked when we realised it was asbestos related.

“She was a very happy woman and dedicated to her family. We met as teenagers at a club in Wolverhampton. She caught my eye and from that moment we were inseparable.

“She had to put up with me working away but she took it all in her stride.

"She was a doting and dutiful wife and mother who loved taking care of us all. We all have suffered greatly at her loss and miss her incredibly.”

The Malpass family have instructed specialist asbestos lawyers at Slater and Gordon to investigate into the cause of Maureen’s cancer.

Industrial disease lawyer Emma Newman said: “Peritoneal mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare form of incurable cancer.

“Despite Maureen never working with asbestos herself we believe she developed this horrific disease through secondary contamination through her husband’s workwear."

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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