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Coroner's Court Family of tyre factory worker who died from asbestos illness fear others may be unaware of health risks

Patrick Byrne, who spent 20 years working at a tyre factory, died of an aggressive form of cancer

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THE family of a retired worker who died from an illness caused by exposure to asbestos is concerned other employees at a former tyre factory may be unaware of a risk to their own health, an inquest heard.

Elizabeth Sullivan told an inquest into the death of her father, Patrick Byrne, that she hoped it might be possible to establish if other workers at the former Semperit tyre factory in Ballyfermot may have been exposed to asbestos.

"I would hope that there would be some sort of inquiry into what they did in the factory, their use of asbestos and the effects it has had on the men who worked in that factory," Ms Sullivan said.

Dublin Coroner's Court returned a verdict of death due to occupational-related disease.

Mr Byrne (85) of St James's Road, Walkinstown, had died from malignant mesothelioma - a form of cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibres which affect the lungs and heart.

The Semperit tyre factory on Killeen Road, Ballyfermot, was in operation before its closure in December 1996 with the loss of 650 jobs.

The inquest heard Mr Byrne, who was a non-smoker, joined Semperit in 1974 and worked there for 20 years until his retirement.

Ms Sullivan told the court that she was concerned that other former Semperit staff might not be aware of mesothelioma and how it could affect them.

She told coroner, Dr Clare Keane, that her father had experienced "a strange stabbing, severe" pain in his chest for about a year before his death on March 19, 2020.

Ms Sullivan said her father had only started working in the Semperit factory in his 40s, while many staff had worked there even longer and could be facing similar health problems now.

"My father was in great, unusual pain. It was very difficult to understand and if other men are facing that I would like that they could be helped," Ms Sullivan said.

"I really believe there must be an awful lot of people out there that are suffering the way my father suffered without knowing why they are suffering.

"And to me that's the most important thing that needs to be addressed."

The inquest heard Mr Byrne had been referred by his GP for an urgent chest X-ray in Tallaght Hospital in February 2020 after which he was confirmed as having malignant mesothelioma.

In written evidence, Professor Stephen Lane, a consultant respiratory and general physician at Tallaght Hospital, said Mr Byrne had a significant exposure to asbestos in the past.

The inquest heard Mr Byrne was not deemed suitable for chemotherapy as the risk of treatment outweighed any marginal potential benefits.

In response to a query from Mr Byrne's family about holding an inquiry into asbestos-related illness at the Semperit plant, Dr Keane said the coroner's office had previously been in contact with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

Dr Keane said the HSA had confirmed it was active in raising public awareness about mesothelioma, particularly among targeted workers in the construction and demolition industry who were most at risk from inadvertent exposure to asbestos as well as the owners of buildings built before 2000, which were more likely to contain the material.

The HSA believed it was a matter for the Department of Health and HSE to consider further sources of information and support.

Dr Keane said she would raise the issue with the HSA again.

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