Wife poisoned by asbestos ‘from my hugs and kisses’
AN ELECTRICIAN who “unwittingly poisoned his wife with asbestos dust” while they hugged and kissed 40 years ago is suing his employers Vauxhall Motors for £1million over her death.
John Carey, 60, told the High Court yesterday that when he started dating wife Lydia she breathed in fibres secreted on his work overalls and even in his hair, moustache and sideburns.
Grandmother Lydia, also 60, died last month after losing her fight against asbestos-linked lung cancer.
Barrister John-Paul Swoboda said deadly fibres were transmitted from husband to wife during the rituals of daily life.
He said: “All through the period she and John Carey would hug and kiss upon seeing one another.”
Mr Swoboda said fibres had been dormant in Mrs Carey’s body for 40 years before triggering the cancer that killed her. She was diagnosed in October 2017 with mesothelioma.
Mr Carey, from Toddington, Bedfordshire, is suing the car giant after he worked at sites in Luton and Dunstable between 1973 and 1979.
The company denies Mr Carey was exposed to hazardous amounts or that he would have “disturbed asbestos in the fabric of the building”.
They have said that all asbestosrelated work at the plants was done by specialist external contractors and it operated an overalls washing scheme for its employees.
But Mr Swoboda said the company had charged extra for the laundry service, and insisted Mr Carey worked in close proximity to asbestos dust.
The couple wed in 1978 and house proud Mrs Carey regularly washed her husband’s work overalls, the court heard. His work clothes were at times “black with dust” which even penetrated into the turn-ups of trousers.
Mr Swoboda said: “Once married, Mr Carey would change from his work clothes when he came home so as not to make the house dirty. Mrs Carey would knock and brush the dust off his work clothes, and she remembered washing his blue overalls.”
She would “beat the dust” from his clothes before putting them into the washing machine, the court heard.
Much of Mr Carey’s work was carried out at Dunstable.
Mr Swoboda claimed the factory was polluted by “huge quantities of asbestos”.
Mr Carey worked alongside men removing or applying asbestos lagging to pipes, and he recalled seeing workers mixing asbestos powder to paste.
At times he had to “walk through, kneel or lie on asbestos dust and debris on the floor to carry out his work,” the court heard.
“He swept asbestos dust and debris from the floor using a dustpan and brush,” Mr Swoboda added.
Mr Carey claims Vauxhall neglected to warn him of the dangers linked to asbestos and should have provided him with protective equipment.
And Mrs Carey’s indirect exposure to dust and fibres between 1976 and 1979 was enough for asbestos “to do its deadly work”.
But Vauxhall’s QC Paul suggested other sources Bleasdale for Mrs Carey’s fatal illness. Even if Mr Carey was exposed to asbestos when working for Vauxhall, it would have been “very occasional if not minimal”, he argued.
And he claimed that Mrs Carey may have been exposed at other times during her husband’s working life or by contact with her father, who had also worked with asbestos during her childhood.
Mr Carey said outside court that his unwitting exposure of his wife to asbestos is “the cross I have to bear”.
He said the couple had just celebrated 40 years of marriage when she died, adding: “We were together since our teens. She was my world, she meant everything to me. She was a lovely lady, very bubbly.
“We have four grandchildren and she was so much looking forward to seeing them grow up. She had everything to go on for.
“They say everything happens for a reason. I’m not so sure about that, but hopefully this case will raise some awareness about this stuff, which is a silent killer.”
Judge Karen Walden-Smith will rule on the claim at a later date.
The Vauxhall plant at Dunstable in the 1970s which, it was claimed, was ‘polluted with huge quantities of asbestos’
John Carey with wife Lydia who was his childhood sweetheart and, above, outside court yesterday