Last week the tragic story about an elementary school teacher who passed away after being diagnosed with cancer was reported and the illness was a result of her exposure to asbestos in the workplace. Elizabeth Belt was 68 years old and had been battling mesothelioma for three years, which is a lung cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Her death was investigated and it was discovered that she had regularly pinned her students’ work to asbestos boards at different schools across North Lincolnshire, which is where she used to work.
Before Ms. Belt passed away, she gave a detailed statement in which she recalled her years that she spent in schools in which she was exposed to asbestos before it became banned in the 1980s. Her statement said that her first teaching job was in 1968 in a primary school in Brigg County and the classrooms “would seem a bit dusty. There may have been exposure to asbestos at the infant section of the school. There were large sections of boarding where the children’s work was displayed and there would be a change of work every two to three weeks.”
Ten years later, Ms. Belt started to work at Baysgarth School, in Barton-upon-Humber. In her statement she said, “They had that same boarding and there was constant pinning and removing. There was considerable use of a staple gun.”
Paul Kelly, the coroner, reported that her death was the result of an industrial disease. Kelly stated, “I have no doubt that Mum contracted malignant mesothelioma as a result of ingesting asbestos while working as a teacher at various schools in north Lincolnshire between 1968 and 1995.”
It was publicized that North Lincolnshire Council’s insurers settled a personal injury claim with Belt’s family, but the amount of compensation was not disclosed. This heartbreaking story showcases that there is a pretty big problem with asbestos in the UK.
Belt’s daughter, Charlotte Shearwood said that she wants to raise awareness about mesothelioma, “It is a horrible, horrible disease. There is obviously a generation that worked with her in the same places. I suppose we are all angry, but I just think our sadness outweighs it.”
Liz Darlison, the director of services for the charity, Mesothelioma UK, stated, “This is a preventable, currently incurable, occupational disease. Many of our schools, public buildings and homes still contain asbestos and we owe it to future generations to address this public health disaster now.”
She also added: “Sincere condolences to Elizabeth Belt’s family and friends and thank you for sharing the experience which is a powerful message to us all. As a nation we have a humane responsibility to do more to improve outcomes for those affected and to make this disease history.”