A Morecambe teacher died of cancer after making snowballs out of asbestos dust

A retired teacher from Morecambe has died of mesothelioma after having ‘snowball fights’ during his 25-year career at a shipyard.

Malcolm Andrew Tinkler worked at the Vickers shipyard in Newcastle from 1957 to 1982. He and his wife Muriel then moved to Morecambe where he worked as a teacher before retiring.

The 80-year-old, from Wesley Drive, was diagnosed with pleural thickening, a thickening of the lining of the lungs, the year he left the shipyard, which developed into pleural plaque disease diagnosed in 2003. In July last year, doctors discovered he had mesothelioma on his left side. The form of lung cancer, which is incurable, usually develops about 20 to 30 years after a person inhales asbestos dust.

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An inquest at Preston Coroner’s Court heard Newcastle-born Mr Tinkler told his doctor that he and his former colleagues had ‘played with snowballs made of asbestos dust’ during his career at Vickers. He died at home, with his wife by his side, on December 12 last year.

“He was exposed to asbestos in Vickers, where he worked, and described to doctors how he played with snowballs made of asbestos dust,” Deputy Coroner Laura Fox told the inquest.

The shipyard in 1975 when Mr. Tinkler worked for Vickers

“He was first diagnosed with pleural thickening in 1982. Between 1957 and 1982 he worked at Vickers removing asbestos and said whole rooms would be covered in dust and he had never received protective clothing or a face mask. He was also never warned of the dangers of working with asbestos.”

Mr Tinkler, who also smoked for 50 years, received treatment for a time before doctors confirmed in August 2021 that his mesothelioma was palliative and there was nothing more they could do for him. The cancer had also spread to his bladder.

“In August 2021, doctors noted significant disease progression,” the coroner said. “His consultant first met him on August 10, when his condition was considered borderline for treatment. He told her about playing with asbestos snowballs and she warned him that the treatment may do more harm than good.

“Treatment options were no longer available and he was told his condition was now palliative. From September 2021 he received care at home, supported by his wife and the nursing team at the district had become increasingly restless and distressed and he passed away peacefully at home with his wife by his side on December 12.”

Returning a finding of occupational disease, the coroner added: “Malcolm Andrew Tinkler died on December 12, 2021 at his home. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2021 following exposure to asbestos during his career at the shipyard. In light of the evidence and confirmed occupational exposure to asbestos, the finding will be recorded as an occupational disease.”

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