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.
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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.