In what is believed to be the first case of an asbestos-related British death possibly linked to hair salon equipment, a 60-year-old United Kingdom woman has succumbed to mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer for which the only known cause is exposure to the toxic mineral.
The Daily Mail reports that the British Health and Safety Laboratory has already tested emissions from heating elements in hair salons which used to be insulated with asbestos and concluded there was “no appreciable risk.” However, family members of the victim can identify no other place where Carol Heaton may have been exposed to asbestos.
Consultant histopathologist Dr. Kim Suvarna reported to the media that an autopsy revealed the victim had a “relatively low level of asbestos fibers in her body” but it showed she had been exposed to asbestos. He said she had no obvious long-term exposure to asbestos in her job such as might be encountered by miners, power station workers, plumbers or electricians. A medical expert called in to review the findings said he had never seen a case like this.
Suvarna believes that perhaps Heaton was somehow environmentally exposed to large amounts of asbestos though no particular situation has been identified.
“On the balance of probabilities, it is more likely this is an unfortunate case of asbestos contamination from environmental pollution,” Suvarna pointed out. “If you are unfortunate to get a good dose you are at risk of mesothelioma.
He added, however, that asbestos was present in hair salons on a daily basis during Heaton’s early days as a hairdresser and salon owner, but no hairdressers should have Mrs. Heaton’s degree of lung contamination, he stressed.