Former teacher taking legal action after contracting asbestos-related cancer

Paul Crabtree was a religious education teacher at Bessemer School in Hitchin between 1972 and the secondary school’s closure in 1982.

He worked in a postwar prefab classroom with asbestos in its fabric for most of his time on the staff. Mr Crabtree is now fighting a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma that develops from cells of the mesothelium – the protective lining that covers many of the internal organs of the body.

Many experts agree that this cancer is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos. Victims may have inhaled or ingested asbestos fibres, or been exposed to airborne asbestos dust in other ways. Mr Crabtree, 68, said:

“I retired early from teaching when I was 57 because I had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I’ve had a melanoma removed from my arm. Nobody suggested those other two cancers were connected with asbestos but now a third ‘m’ – mesothelioma – is going to get me.

I was in the same classroom at Bessemer for 16 years. Asbestos was removed from the school from 1983 onwards following the accepted practice of the day.

The wisdom at the time was that if you left the asbestos alone it was all right – but I have been affected by it.”

With the help of lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, one of the UK’s biggest firms, Mr Crabtree is bringing a civil court case against Herts County Council.

No financial settlement has yet been agreed with the council and talks between the two parties are continuing. A spokesman for Herts County Council said that as action is pending it would be ‘inappropriate’ to comment further.

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