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Written on 4th February 2016 by Laura Magson

Hulton Councillor, Alan Walsh, very sadly died on 20 January from the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma.

A popular councillor, he served the Hulton ward from May 2000 when he was first elected. Highly regarded and respected by his peers and by people from both ends of the political spectrum, he was awarded the title of Honorary Alderman in December 2015, a title usually reserved for retired council members.

Cllr Walsh passed away at the age of 81 in Bolton Hospice, Queen’s Park Street, Bolton.

Exposed to asbestos whilst working as plumber

It is thought that Cllr Walsh came into contact with asbestos during his 50 year career in plumbing and construction.

Asbestos Justice reports that 1 in 50 plumbers, born in the 1950s and who have worked in the industry for 10 years or more, are at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.

Ways in which plumbers might have come into contact with asbestos include:

  • Working on pipes, boilers, ducts and tanks that were manufactured between the 1940s and 1970s which were covered in asbestos lagging.
  • Cutting, drilling or sawing pipes to specific sizes often disturbing asbestos insulation and releasing fibres into the atmosphere.
  • Handling pumps, valves and gaskets that contained asbestos.
  • Removing old boilers and refitting new ones often required stripping old asbestos lagging with a hammer/chisel or being in the vicinity whilst this was being done by others.
  • Using asbestos cement flues and cutting them to size.
  • Using asbestos rope and string to seal the joints of flues or boilers.
  • Drilling through asbestos soffits and asbestos pipe boxings to install pipes and overflows.

Mesothelioma has a long latency period

It is not unusual for mesothelioma to develop many years after coming into contact with asbestos due to the long latency period between exposure and the onset of symptoms such as breathlessness and chest pains.

Helping his Hospice

Cllr Walsh was diagnosed with the tragic disease of mesothelioma in 2013. Despite his debilitating illness, he amazingly raised over £800 for Bolton Hospice.

Hospices provide invaluable assistance and support to people suffering with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and other illnesses. However, hospices are usually independent charities and receive very little funding from local authorities or the NHS. Many hospices rely on donations like Cllr Walsh’s.

When we act for a client suffering from an asbestos-related illness or for a family who have lost a loved one, we will seek to recover the hospice costs wherever possible and repay them to the hospice.