Mesothelioma Case Shows Danger of Accidental Asbestos Exposure

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A mesothelioma case in Birmingham, England is a dramatic illustration of the very real danger of hidden asbestos.

The widow of a physician who died of mesothelioma last year at the age of 51 claims her husband was exposed to asbestos just walking to and from his medical classes. Monisha Coelho believes that exposed asbestos insulation in the underground hallways that connect the University of Birmingham to buildings on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital campus triggered Dr. Ian Pardoe’s mesothelioma.

In an article in the Birmingham Mail, Coelho explained how her husband decided how and where the deadly exposure had occurred. “Ian thought long and hard about where he might have come into contact with asbestos,” Coelho told the paper. “He knew he had been exposed to the dust in the underground corridors he used as a student to get to and from lectures.”

As asbestos insulation deteriorates over time, the dust produced can be a major risk factor for mesothelioma. With inadequate ventilation underground, anyone travelling through the University hallways on a regular basis may have inhaled potentially lethal levels of asbestos. Coelho’s lawyer believes that there may have been deteriorating asbestos insulation wrapped around the pipes in the corridors and is asking anyone with knowledge of the hallways to help with the case.

Asbestos has long been known to be the primary risk factor for mesothelioma, a virulent cancer of internal membranes that is resistant to standard therapies. England has an especially high rate of mesothelioma because so many of the country’s older homes and buildings were constructed using asbestos building products. The problem has become so severe that the English Parliament recently instituted a plan to offer compensation to mesothelioma victims who cannot trace their illness to a liable company or employer. The plan has been widely criticized by mesothelioma advocacy groups for not going far enough.

Most mesothelioma cases occur among people who have worked with or around asbestos, but cases like Dr. Pardoe’s, where exposure was smaller and intermittent, are not unheard of. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency has stated that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure and advises complete avoidance of friable (crumbling and airborne) asbestos.


Stacey, Alison, “Short cut exposed student doctor to killer asbestos”, September 29, 2013, Birmingham Mail.

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