The deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma, already responsible for 1,800 deaths each year, has found a new, younger set of victims. A shocking, landmark case reveals that the asbestos cancer is now capable of affecting a third generation of victims – the grandchildren of former dockyard workers and other men who worked with the deadly substance throughout their careers.

The case involves a young 45 year old mother from Southsea, Hampshire, who was exposed to asbestos from her grandfather’s work clothes and now suffers from mesothelioma, the fatal asbestos-related lung disease. As a result, Michelle Campbell has received over £140,000 in compensation for her pain and suffering from the Ministry of Defence. But, as she explains, this is no compensation for a life which will be tragically cut short. She has already undergone operations, radiotherapy and chemotherapy but stopped treatment in May because it was not making sufficient difference. The cancer has since spread to her breast bone and ribs.

Asbestos dust covered overalls and cap

Michelle is the granddaughter of Charles Frost who was employed by the MoD at their Portsmouth Dockyard from approximately 1935 to 1975 as a fitter’s assistant. Charles was required to work on board ships where asbestos insulation was being installed, which would have resulted in his overalls being covered in the deadly asbestos dust.

On his journey home from work each night, he would call in to his daughter’s home to play with his granddaughter Michelle. Thelma Ward, Mrs Campbell’s mother, recalls that his overalls were covered in dirt and dust. He also wore a cap which he had been wearing all day on board the ships. In addition to sitting on her grandfather’s knee, Michelle would be picked up by him and also wear his cap, which was covered in dust.

Diagnosed with mesothelioma

Michelle Campbell first experienced symptoms of shortness of breath just before Christmas 2005. Upon consulting her GP she was referred to the Queen Alexandra Hospital, where she underwent a chest x-ray which showed that fluid had built up on her lung. After returning for a CT scan and a biopsy in December 2005 she returned for the diagnosis in January 2006, at which point it was explained that she had developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure.

Michelle is married to Paul Campbell, and has 3 children, Louis 23, Jess 21 and Charlotte 18. She also has 2 stepchildren, Jess 12 and Sian 9. Until the development of her condition she was employed by the Early Learning Centre as a sales assistant.

She explains: “Since I was diagnosed with mesothelioma, I have been in complete shock and denial. At first, I couldn’t recall being exposed to asbestos. Only then did it dawn on me that I could have caught it from my granddad. His daily visits to our home started when I was baby and continued until I was 14 which is when he stopped working at the shipyards in 1975. I’m devastated, as is my husband Paul; we have a young family and now the future is very uncertain.”

Michelle’s solicitor, Tony Hood from Thompsons Solicitors, comments: “Michelle’s case illustrates the tragedy of asbestos – and yet again the negligence of employers – that has now extended further and is causing the deaths of a third generation of innocent people. This legacy from the past shows no signs of abating; in contrast, it looks certain that more innocent young victims like Michelle will be affected in the future.”