ASBESTOS exposure at ICI plants in mid Cheshire has been found to be the cause of a worker’s death for the second time in two months.

James Bell – who was commonly known as Gordon – died at his home in Riddings Lane, Hartford, on May 3.

An inquest at Warrington Coroners’ Court last week heard that the 87-year-old, who grew up in Middlewich, spent almost his entire career working for ICI from 1948 until his retirement in 1992.

He had been admitted to Leighton Hospital where on February 21, an MRI scan revealed a ‘large mass’ in his left lung, the inquest heard.

Gordon’s post-mortem concluded that he had died from metastatic lung cancer, which was due to occupational exposure to asbestos.

A statement written by Gordon and signed on March 7 – which was believed to have been prepared with solicitors for a civil claim – was read out during the inquest.

Gordon explained how he worked for Cerebos Salt in Middlewich from the age of 14 in 1946 to 1948, when he moved to ICI’s Middlewich Works where asbestos was used for insulation in the process to make soda ash.

He said: “We were never advised to damp down debris, nor were we provided with respiratory protection for this work.

“I recall that I did a good deal of work in the boiler house, and the boilers were lagged in asbestos. As I worked I had no doubt that I inhaled a significant quantity of asbestos dust.”

“I was never warned about the dangers of asbestos, nor was I given any advice about minimising the levels of dust produced when working with asbestos.

“We were never provided with any respiratory protective equipment, although I recall at one stage cloths were provided to wrap around your mouth.”

Gordon went on national service from 1950 to 1952 before returning to ICI in Middlewich, where he believed he had been exposed to asbestos on a daily basis until 1965, the inquest heard.

He also felt he could have been exposed to it at other ICI sites including Lostock, Winnington and Winsford, until taking on a new role at Brunner House from 1970.

Dr David Michael Butterworth, the pathologist at Leighton Hospital who carried out Gordon’s post mortem, said that the presence of ‘pleural plaques’ confirmed that asbestos exposure had led to his lung cancer.

“This is not a natural cause of death,” he added.

Alan Moore, senior coroner for Cheshire, ruled that Gordon died ‘as a result of industrial disease, which is asbestos related’.

In August, an inquest ruled that another former ICI worker had died as a result of asbestos exposure.

Christopher Lees, who lived in Northwich, died at St Luke’s Hospice on May 17 due to mesothelioma.

Winsford Guardian:

He had worked for the company for more than 30 years until 1992, and in a statement written before his death, explained he had been exposed to asbestos at the polythene plant from 1968.

At that hearing, assistant coroner Heath Westerman ruled that his death ‘on the balance of probability, is one of industrial disease’.