Tragic woman’s final warning

Preston College exterior view
Preston College exterior view
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The sister of a former college lecturer who died from an industrial lung disease, has warned that thousands of other students and staff may have been put at risk.

Cynthia Clarke of Fulwood taught in the English Department of Preston College for nearly 25 years, having joined the staff in 1971 when it was known as Tuson College.

Cynthia Clarke (deceased)

Cynthia Clarke (deceased)

In July 2008 she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer that is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos. Despite chemotherapy treatment, she died in April 2010 aged 66.

While she was alive, Ms Clarke began legal proceedings against Lancashire County Council (LCC), which were settled out of court for a “substantial figure” last summer, despite LCC never admitting formal liability.

Her sister Elizabeth Smith said: “The pathologist’s conclusion after post-mortem examination was that the malignancy was likely to have been caused by exposure to asbestos. The family are not aware of any such exposure other than at her place of work.

“An inquest by the Preston Coroner determined that she had died of an industrial disease.

“Although Lancashire County Council and its insurers have never admitted formal liability, they still paid out.”

Mrs Smith added: “My sister wanted to warn people who had worked and been students of Preston College.”

Ms Clarke’s solicitor, Ruth Davies, said: “.My client’s case revolved around ceiling tiles in Preston College that contained asbestos.

“Quite a lot of these were removed during the 1980s, but my client had already been there over a decade by that point, and there had been people going up into the ceiling space, disturbing the asbestos by fitting cables.”

LCC declined to give a formal comment, stating only that Ms Clarke was employed by Preston College, and LCC insurers paid out only as a result of complicated employment terms and conditions from the 1970s.

A College spokesman said:

“This incident relates to alleged exposure to asbestos fibres that occurred prior to the College’s incorporation in 1992. Before and since this time, asbestos has been removed from the vast majority of the site and any small amounts of residuary asbestos containing materials are now controlled via asbestos registers and the College facilities team.

In addition, Preston College only use approved contractors for working on/with this residual material.

“The investigation into this case also showed the college to be correct in its management and control of the small remaining amount of asbestos on site and has full documentation and processes in place, and are not aware of any further claims of this nature pertaining to the college.

Preston College acts as a responsible employer and we were saddened to hear of Ms Clarke’s untimely death and would like to pass on our condolences to Ms. Clarke’s family once again.”