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Manchester bomb security guard falls victim to asbestos-related disease

The IRA bombing of Manchester in 1996 has claimed a victim almost 20 years after the incident. Former security guard, Stuart Packard, who was only 40 years old when he died, worked for three weeks at the scene of the bombing.

Although nobody was killed, more than 200 people were injured, and buildings were so badly damaged that many in the centre of the city had to be demolished. The high incidence of asbestos in these old buildings meant that deadly dust and fibres were airborne for much of the work, and with Mr Packard’s close proximity to rubble and demolition, he unwittingly breathed in the substance.

Not provided with protective equipment

It is reported that Mr Packard was not offered any protective clothing or equipment during this time, although photographs show others at work in the area wearing protective masks. This may lead to a potential civil claim by the family for compensation.

Mesothelioma is a common result of exposure to asbestos particles and dust. It is a type of terminal cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, causing serious breathing difficulties over a period of time.

Once a diagnosis has been given the prognosis is poor, with around 12 months being the average survival time for those diagnosed. In Mr Packard’s case, a diagnosis was given in March 2015, and he sadly died eight months later.

Limited asbestos awareness

A long latency period is normal with any type of asbestos-related disease, however, with between 20 and 50 years between exposure and diagnosis being common. Asbestos dust and fibres are so small that they are not always noticeable in the air, and if they are seen, the danger they present has not always been recognised in the past.

The substance was widely used in the construction of older buildings, and because its use was only banned in the UK in 1999, any building constructed prior to this could effectively contain asbestos in many forms.

Uses of asbestos

So what was asbestos used to make during its heyday between the 1950s and the 1980s? Its fire-retardant quality meant that it was used in the manufacture of clothing and fire blankets. Chrysotile, or white asbestos, also has softer fibres that made it useful for being woven into protective workwear.

These are just a few of the items commonly seen in commercial and residential properties, manufactured using asbestos:

  • Ceiling and floor tiles
  • Lagging for pipe work
  • Central heating and boiler systems
  • Partition walling
  • Fire-proof clothing and materials

Chrysotile was one of the most widely used types of asbestos from the 1950s onwards, but another form of the substance proved to be even more hazardous to health when breathed in.

The characteristics of Amphibole, or brown asbestos, include sharp, needle-like fibres that once lodged in the lungs, remain there to cause severe ongoing damage over a potentially long period of time.