Widow of man who helped build Addenbrooke’s wants answers after his asbestos death

The widow of a construction worker who helped build Addenbrooke’s in the 1960s is appealing for information following his death from asbestos-related cancer, Cambridge News has reported.

Gordon Harris worked on the hospital project between 1966 and 1967, where it is believed he was exposed to the deadly asbestos fibres.

The father-of-two died in August 2016 aged 73 after being diagnosed and treated for mesothelioma a year before.

Christine, from Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire, said:

“Gordon’s diagnosis was a terrible shock to our family and we’re still reeling from his loss.

Gordon was such a warm person. He loved bird watching and playing snooker but undoubtedly, he loved nothing more than spending time with friends and our daughters and two grandchildren all whom miss him terribly.

We all have so many questions about how he came to be exposed to asbestos and, while it cannot change what happened to him, I just hope the answers will give me some peace.”

Asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have been instructed to investigate Gordon’s working conditions several decades ago.

Gordon worked as a pipe fitter and worked on the construction of the hospital fitting iron piping in the service ducts.

During the course of his work, he encountered other workers lagging the pipes with asbestos. The mixing of the asbestos powder created substantial quantities of dust, which fell to the floor where he worked.

According to the NHS, the inhaling of asbestos fibres can lead to a chronic condition called asbestosis where the lung is permanently damaged and scarred, leading to chest pain and breathing problems.

People with asbestosis have a higher risk of developing other serious conditions, such as mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the membrane that covers the lungs, heart and gut.

Asbestos does not present a health risk if it is undisturbed, but if material containing asbestos is chipped, drilled, broken or allowed to deteriorate, it can release a fine dust.

Irwin Mitchell is now appealing to other sub-contractors who worked on site, for more information about the working conditions and materials used in the build.

Lawyer Ian Bailey, representing Christine, said:

“Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive, and sadly, incurable, form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust fibres. It is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,500 people in the UK every year.

We are investigating Gordon’s exposure during his time working on the construction of Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and we hope that anyone who worked on the premises during 1966 and 1967 will come forward with further information.”

A spokesperson for the law firm added that there was no suggestion of Addenbrooke’s being responsible.

Irwin Mitchell have previously called for a national ‘at risk’ register of public buildings containing asbestos following a Bath Chronicle investigation that revealed the substance was present in 71 local schools.

Christine’s appeal also coincides with Workers Memorial Day on April 28, an annual commemoration of those who have died as a result of their employment.

It is driven by an intent to ‘remember the dead and to fight for the living’ through campaigns to improve workplace health and safety standards and protections.

Anyone with information regarding the construction work at Addenbrooke’s Hospital between 1966 and 1967 should contact Ian Bailey on 0207 421 4754 or email Ian.Bailey@IrwinMitchell.com.

There is no suggestion Addenbrookes are responsible, and the hospital has not been contacted by the law firm.

A spokesman said it would not be appropriate to comment.