Decades-old asbestos exposure has been officially linked to the recent deaths of two elderly Athy women, leading the Kildare County Coroner to suggest that we are witnessing a cluster of such deaths.
Speaking at last Monday’s sitting of the Coroner’s Court in Naas, Prof Denis Cusack was keen to stress that this is not a current health problem and that the exposure to asbestos in both cases occurred many decades ago, before there was an awareness of the dangers of the substance.
The case he heard last Monday involved 78-year-old Mary Mullhall from Athy, who died on August 16 last.
Evidence from her son Martin Mullhall revealed that his father, Mary’s late husband, had worked in the town’s former asbestos factory (situated where the Tegral plant is now) before he was born.
The coroner believed that the late Mrs. Mullhall would have been exposed to asbestos from washing her husband’s clothes 60 years ago.
Prof Cusack recalled an inquest he had dealt with in early December last year where a woman called Mary Fitzsimons had been exposed to asbestos through washing her father’s work clothes. He had worked in the same plant.
“There is no public health issue,” Mr. Cusack said. But he said he believed “you’ll perhaps see a cluster of such deaths now. This is the second I’ve seen in two months. Thankfully the danger from asbestos is now long recognised.
“Sadly your mother was exposed to it at a time when the dangers were not known.”
In passing his sympathies to the family of Mrs. Mullhall, Garda Inspector Paul Dolan noted how “unusual it is that something she picked up 60 years ago led to her untimely death”.