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Retired Toowoomba science teacher diagnosed with asbestos cancer after using Bunsen burner equipment

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A former science teacher has been diagnosed with mesothelioma after working with Bunsen burner equipment made from asbestos in Queensland schools over 40 years ago. 

The father of two and grandfather of four taught in a Toowoomba school for 11 years, working in the science laboratory where he was exposed to asbestos dust and fibres.

As a teacher in the 1970s and 80s, he said they had no idea mesothelioma was associated with the use of asbestos material in the workplace.

“I spent each and every day in the science lab for 11 years, inadvertently breathing in the ticking time bomb,” he said.

“During chemistry and physics lessons, the students and I would set up the Bunsen burners with safety mats which were made of asbestos.

“As the equipment was moved about the lab, asbestos flaked off in minute quantities onto our clothes and into the atmosphere.”

His teaching career continued with relief work in schools across the Sunshine Coast, where equipment made from asbestos was also used.

“Prior to my diagnosis I was very fit and healthy. It came as a huge shock to me and my family to be told I had asbestos cancer after over 35 years as a teacher.”

Slater and Gordon senior asbestos lawyer Martin Rogalski settled a legal claim for the former teacher and said unfortunately, his were not isolated circumstances.

“While asbestos is commonly linked with mining and construction work, I have seen a number of clients who were first exposed to asbestos in classrooms, hospitals and offices,” Mr Rogalski said.

“Mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases can take a number of years to develop, which means people who were exposed 30 to 50 years ago still might not have any major symptoms.

“It is important for people to remain vigilant about their health and to seek medical advice if they believe they have ever come in contact with the substance.

“Employers have a responsibility to not only ensure their employees are aware of the presence of asbestos, but also to provide the appropriate protective equipment and training.”