Headteacher died after being exposed to asbestos at school – Devon Live

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A retired headteacher died of asbestos exposure which she believed occurred during her teaching career.

An inquest at Exeter’s County Hall today heard how Cathy Kowan, who was living in Exmouth at the time of her death, had varied jobs, but the majority was spent working in education.

During her retirement she was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in October 2015, following a CT scan after complaining of having felt shortness of breath for the past six weeks.

The following year she received chemotherapy and radiotherapy but she passed away in a hospice in Exeter on May 3, aged 72-years-ancient.

A statement from her GP Simon Kay confirmed she had smoked up until the age of 40. He described Mrs Kowan as “very active and proactive”, but that she had previous abdominal health problems including a hysterectomy.

Her cause of death was confirmed as malignant mesothelioma, and an existing condition of intra-abdominal adhesions was noted.

Mrs Kowan’s previous places of work in Devon included Copplestone Primary School from 1986 to 1987, and Southbrook, a special school in Exeter from 1984 to 1985.

But, in a statement made after her diagnosis, Mrs Kowan said she believed she might have been exposed to asbestos while working as a headteacher at Dulvertton First School and Nursery in Somerset.

Somerset County Council do not accept she was exposed to asbestos during her time working for them.

Their solicitor Jamie Mitchell, who attended the inquest, said Mrs Kowan’s husband was a carpenter who worked in a joinery shop and would take his clothes back home from work which could have contained asbestos fibres. But, in a previous statement the claim was denied by Mrs Kowan, who was born in London.

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Referring to the alleged poor condition of the walls at Dulverton, Mr Mitchell said following investigations it was deemed “unlikely” to have resulted in any exposure.

Mr Mitchell said: “There is no form of evidence anywhere she was exposed to asbestos. It’s merely speculation.”

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Coroner John Tomalin said: “There is ongoing mitigation which is outside of my remit. I reckon it’s more likely than not that Mrs Kowan was exposed to asbestos fibres during her lifetime. As to where this happened or when I cannot say. I have not direct evidence to give such a conclusion.”

A conclusion of asbestos related death was recorded.

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