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Woman fears she contracted cancer from washing husband's asbestos-covered overalls

A Lenham woman is seeking compensation after contracting cancer after years spent washing what she believes were the asbestos-coated overalls of her late father and husband.

Ann Siddons is certain her husband Henry, known as Harry, and father, Walter Ward, died of illnesses linked to their work at the village’s Marley Floor Tile factory in the 1960s and 1970s.

The 72-year-old, of Rivers Walk, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust, last August and has since lost more than a stone in weight and undergone surgery to drain her lungs.

Ann Siddons, who has got cancer
Ann Siddons, who has got cancer

Mr Siddons died of pneumonia in 2009 aged 69, having been forced to retire due to ill health 14 years earlier and her father died of cancer aged 67 in 1981.

Mrs Siddons said: “They used to set off for work together and when they came home again in the evening, they were caked in a fine grey dust. Everyone in the area knew that some tiles were made of asbestos.

“My father used to take off his overalls and leave them on his chair overnight. In the morning, he’d put them back on and go to work.”

She added: “I remember shaking them out of the back door to get the dust off before washing them and turning out the pockets full of the stuff. I must have done that every week for about eight years.”

She initially went to her GP in August because she was having trouble breathing. An X-ray at Maidstone Hospital confirmed she had the industrial disease.

Harry Siddons worked at the local tile factory
Harry Siddons worked at the local tile factory

She said: “As soon as I heard, I knew I’d got it from washing the overalls.”

Peter Williams, a lawyer at Fieldfisher, is seeking compensation from Marley Eternit Ltd for Mrs Siddons, who lives off her state pension, to provide the care she needs.

He said: “I am urgently looking for witnesses and asking anyone who worked at the Marley factory at around the same time to help me piece together the working conditions. I’d be extremely grateful for anyone’s help in ensuring Mrs Siddons gets the care she deserves.”

Mr Williams can be contacted at 0207 8614825 or by email peter.williams@fieldfisher.com

Ann Siddons on her wedding day
Ann Siddons on her wedding day

A spokesman for Marley Eternit Ltd said he could not confirm if its floor tiles were ever made of asbestos, adding: “We are unaware of this case and as such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

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