Published: 18:40, 20 April 2021
| Updated: 18:42, 20 April 2021
The widow of a man killed by an asbestos-related lung cancer needs to hear from former workers at Springfield Paper Mill in Maidstone during the 1950s and 1960s.
Mary Salt’s husband, Keith sadly passed away in Maidstone Hospital on September 15, 2018. An inquest subsequently concluded that he died from mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer caused by breathing in asbestos dust and fibres.
It is suspected that Mr Salt, who lived in Maidstone, was exposed to asbestos while working at Springfield Paper Mill, in Sandling Road.
The mill manufactured paper for more than 200 years and once employed 1,000 people.
The site is now being developed for housing, but the mill’s iconic Grade II listed chimney is still visible.
Mr Salt - he was known then to friends as Sam - was employed from 1050 to 1961 as a maintenance worker at the mill which was then owned by W & R Balston.
His job was to repair the mill’s heating network, which involved the removal of asbestos lagging from the pipes and boilers.
He and his colleagues would even eat their sandwiches in the boiler room.
He would come home with his overalls covered in dust and his wife would shake them out in the garden and wash them.
The father of five was a keen gardener, enjoyed playing football with his 13 grandchildren and doing DIY up until his health started to deteriorate.
He was also his wife's carer after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2006.
He started to suffer from breathing problems in 2014.
At first, it was put down to asthma, and he continued to be Mrs Salt's main carer up until about a year before his death at the age of 83.
Now Mrs Salt has engaged solicitors to make a claim for industrial disease compensation to support her future care.
Joanne Keen, a solicitor with Birchall Blackburn Law, said: “Mesothelioma takes decades to develop and it is not usually until the end of a person’s working life, when they should be enjoying a long and happy retirement with family and friends, that the cruel cancer takes all that away.
"To help Mary and her family we would like to hear from former employees at Springfield Paper Mill, in Sandling Road, about the presence of asbestos."
'He thought it was his responsibility to look after me'
She said: “Did you work at the mill during the 1950s and 1960s? Can you remember working alongside Keith Salt, also known as Sam?
"What were the working condition like? What do you remember about the presence of asbestos?
"Please get in touch. Your details will remain confidential.”
Mr Salt met his wife during the time he was working at Springfield and they married in February 1956.
Mrs Salt said: “Keith had a very strong sense of duty towards caring for me."
"He thought that it was his responsibility to look after me when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and he was often reluctant to accept any help from others, even members of our family.
“Keith did everything for me. Cook and prepare our meals - he often had to cut my food and feed me - and do a lot of chores around the house as well as manage and administer medication. He helped me get up and dress, and bath and shower daily.”
Mrs Salt said: "When Keith was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the whole family were very shocked. It was difficult to take in.
"From then on, he started to deteriorate rapidly. He began to develop pain in the abdomen and lost his appetite. He could do little but get from his bed to a chair and back again. His mood became quite low. He soon became frustrated with feelings of helplessness.
"It was very distressing to see my husband deteriorate and suffer so much over the last few months of his life. "
The Department of Work and Pensions predicts that 53,000 people will eventually die from mesothelioma in the UK by 2037.
When asbestos was first used as an insulating material it was not realised it would have long-term ill-effects on health.
Some types of asbestos were banned in 1985, and a total ban came onto force in 1999.
W&R Balston merged with Angel Reeve International in 1974 to form Whatman Angel Reeve.
In 1993, the company changed its name to Whatman PLC. In 2008, Whatman's was purchased by American company GE Healthcare, who closed the Maidstone site in 2018 and sold the site to housing developer Redrow.
Birchall Blackburn said the claim would be made against W&R Balston's insurers.
Anyone who can help Mrs Salt is asked to call Joanne Keen on freephone 0800 783 8485 or email email@example.com