A 33-year-old medical researcher died from a cancer usually caused by asbestos, despite no history of being exposed to it, an inquest heard.

Rose Wharton died of mesothelioma at her Oxford home on 20 May, after being diagnosed in September.

Coroner Darren Salter said it was a "very unusual" case, because the illness usually only affects those who worked around asbestos for decades.

He told Oxford Coroner's Court he had never seen a case like it.

Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in people aged between 60 and 80, according to the NHS.

In a statement Ms Wharton's family said she could have been exposed to the material while building a school in Argentina during her gap year when she was 18.

'Greatly missed'

But Mr Salter said that as this could not be confirmed, he would have to record a narrative verdict, stating the cause of her cancer was not known.

Ms Wharton, who worked as a medical statistician and was born in Cambridge, was described as "fit and well" with no medical problems except asthma.

A crowdfunding page set up in her memory has raised almost £3,000 towards research into peritoneal mesothelioma.

Her colleagues at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford said Ms Wharton would be "greatly missed".

Mr Salter said: "I don't think I have seen a case like this. (Article compliments of BBC news)

"Mesothelioma normally affects men working as plumbers or heating engineers for 30 or 40 years, but this is very different from that."

Every year nearly 4,000 people die as a result of exposure to asbestos fibres and this death toll is expected to continue.  

Asbestos was once described as a ‘miracle mineral’.  It was cheap and easy to use and was used in almost every industry from ships, power stations, factories, hospitals, schools to our homes.  It was used in boilers, brake linings and for many other industrial and domestic purposes.

Most skilled and unskilled workers in the thermal insulation, shipbuilding and repair and the trades involved in construction were put at risk by working with or in the vicinity of asbestos without protection until the 1970’s and 1980’s when new regulations forced the use of alternative products.  Asbestos exposure does not just happen to those who worked with it.  

 Others also at risk were:


  • Workers involved in the maintenance of premises or repair of installations where asbestos was present
  • Family members were at risk from asbestos fibres that were carried home on work clothes
  • People living nearby to premises were asbestos was processed or stored if it was not properly contained

Claims for compensation can be brought against employers or occupiers of buildings many years after the exposure.  But the passage of time can make it very difficult to prove who was responsible for the exposure.  

 At Simpsons Solicitors we have an experienced team of qualified specialist lawyers dedicated to handling these claims.  If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness such as Asbestosis, Pleural Thickening, Asbestos related Lung Cancer or Mesothelioma get in touch with us now, and one of our experienced team of qualified specialist personal injury lawyers will be able to advise you further.

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