'I ate asbestos-covered cake' - Crook man recalls school visit to Bowburn factory

The Northern Echo: Bowburn's asbestos factory Bowburn's asbestos factory

A MAN who grew up near an asbestos factory has told how he and dozens of young classmates toured the facility completely unprotected – even eating cake covered in the deadly dust.

Grandfather Philip Beresford has not knowingly suffered any ill health as a result of Bowburn Junior School’s 1965 tour of the County Durham village’s asbestos factory.

But the 57-year-old faces a lifelong agonising wait to see if he will, like Caroline Wilcock, will develop mesothelioma, a rare asbestos-related cancer.

Last week, Miss Wilcock won “substantial” damages from the factory’s operators, Cape, in a case said to have opened the gates for any diagnosed mesothelioma sufferer who contracted the disease while living in Bowburn between the 1960s and 1980s to sue for compensation.

Mr Beresford, now of Hollowdene, Crook, said: “It worries me. We didn’t know anything about it at the time.”

Mr Beresford said he, then aged nine, and more than 100 schoolchildren visited the factory in 1965, shortly after it opened and two years before Cape took over.

He remembers what he now believes to have been asbestos dust lined the handrails, coated his school uniform and settled on cake and juice served to the young visitors, none of whom wore protective clothing.

“No-one thought anything about it," he said.

“We’d never seen anything like that before. It was a big modern factory with big machines and they said it was going to be a new era of working.

“When I think about it now I laugh to myself.”

Out in Bowburn, asbestos dust covered the cars, Mr Beresford said.

“It’s shocking really. But I don’t think anybody knew anything about it then, so you can’t blame anybody,” he added.

Since news of Miss Wilcock’s settlement broke last week, numerous other people who lived or worked in Bowburn have come forward.

One woman, who asked not to be named, said she quit her job cleaning the factory in 1988 over health concerns.

Cape has still made no public comments on Miss Wilcock’s case.

Do you think you might be affected? Call Mark Tallentire on 0191-384-4600.

To speak to Field Fisher Waterhouse lawyers, who represented Miss Wilcock, call 020-7861-4000.

Comments (4)

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7:42pm Mon 21 Oct 13

settheworldonfire says...

Here we go claim culture at work again...
Here we go claim culture at work again... settheworldonfire
  • Score: -1

7:54pm Mon 21 Oct 13

loonyleft says...

Here we go ,cynicism at work again.
Here we go ,cynicism at work again. loonyleft
  • Score: 1

10:09pm Mon 21 Oct 13

Voice-of-reality says...

My mother used to use great lumps of rock containing asbestos as door stops (she was a bit of a rock fanatic). When we were kids we sometimes sat there, peeling the fibres off it.

Not dead yet, thankfully, any of us (including my mother)
My mother used to use great lumps of rock containing asbestos as door stops (she was a bit of a rock fanatic). When we were kids we sometimes sat there, peeling the fibres off it. Not dead yet, thankfully, any of us (including my mother) Voice-of-reality
  • Score: 0

8:34am Tue 22 Oct 13

Ally F says...

Cape manufactured asbestos cement cladding products at Bowburn, which is 10 - 15% w/w asbestos fibres, the majority is cement. Cement powder was probably the major airborne pollutant of the Cape Site, and to a much lesser extent white asbestos fibre dust.

Many people will have azzy cement sheeting on outbuildings and garages without even realising it. Left undisturbed it poses no health hazard.

Sure, asbestos is dangerous, as was the manufacturing process, and that is why a total ban on its use as a building material came into force in 1999. There will be people who worked at or lived very close to the Bowburn Cape plant who have a genuine asbestos related medical condition. This will be as a result of long term exposure to asbestos fibres over a significant period of time.

There are many myths and inaccuracies about asbestos, which the Northern Echo is only serving to propagate. Headlines like 'I ate asebstos covered cake' are sensational, probably inaccurate, and do nothing to serve those with a genuine claim and medical condition.
Cape manufactured asbestos cement cladding products at Bowburn, which is 10 - 15% w/w asbestos fibres, the majority is cement. Cement powder was probably the major airborne pollutant of the Cape Site, and to a much lesser extent white asbestos fibre dust. Many people will have azzy cement sheeting on outbuildings and garages without even realising it. Left undisturbed it poses no health hazard. Sure, asbestos is dangerous, as was the manufacturing process, and that is why a total ban on its use as a building material came into force in 1999. There will be people who worked at or lived very close to the Bowburn Cape plant who have a genuine asbestos related medical condition. This will be as a result of long term exposure to asbestos fibres over a significant period of time. There are many myths and inaccuracies about asbestos, which the Northern Echo is only serving to propagate. Headlines like 'I ate asebstos covered cake' are sensational, probably inaccurate, and do nothing to serve those with a genuine claim and medical condition. Ally F
  • Score: 4

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