A retired chemistry teacher who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleural lining almost exclusively linked to exposure to asbestos, has spoken of his ordeal in a bid to help others after securing a £180k compensation care package from Devon County Council. 

Alan Turner, now 83, devoted his life to teaching children, having originally started as a lab technician in the 1950s aged just 16, working at various schools, colleges and universities across the country before he eventually retired in 2000. 

Throughout his career, he spent a significant period of time at Dawlish Secondary Modern School, joining the faculty in 1975 and leaving in 1997. During this time, the great-grandfather recalled coming into contact with asbestos, which was present in everyday teaching tools like Bunsen burner gauzes, heat mats, and even his classroom’s notice board.  

Despite the prevalence of the material, Mr Turner says he was never provided with any protective equipment or made aware of the risks of exposure or the danger that he was in. 

Following his diagnosis, he instructed industrial disease experts at national law firm Thompsons Solicitors to investigate where and when he was exposed to asbestos and whether more could have been done to protect his health.  

The firm went on to bring legal action against his former employer, Devon County Council, and later secured a comprehensive £180k compensation care package for Mr Turner that will provide him with access to vital life-extending therapies and treatments and pay for his ongoing care.  

Speaking of his illness and the impact that it has had on his life, Mr Turner said that while he hoped that no one else should suffer as he has, he has chosen to speak out so that others know how to get help if they need it. 

He said: “My asbestos exposure took place decades ago, but it was not until 2020 that I realised something was wrong. I was suffering from terrible breathlessness, so I went to my GP, who sent me on for a scan at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.” 

At this time, Mr Turner was diagnosed with fluid on his lungs and pleural thickening – a lung disease that affects the lining of the lungs. He underwent medical treatment, but sadly, his condition continued to deteriorate. In January 2023, he received the diagnosis of mesothelioma. 

Mr Turner said: “The impact of his illness has had a devastating impact on my life, making it difficult for me to do chores around the house and I have been forced to give up playing table tennis for my local community team and riding my bike.”  

Before his diagnosis, Mr Turner had enjoyed spending his retirement travelling and spending time with his great-grandson, but now he tires too easily. He relies on a mobility scooter to get out and about.  

Alan Turner
Alan Turner was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year

“The mesothelioma diagnosis was a huge shock,” Mr Turner added. It’s hard to imagine that something like this could happen to you and to find out further down the line that my illness could have been prevented has been very difficult to come to terms with. 

“Thankfully, my wife Jane has been an absolute brick. I couldn’t have coped without her. I get exhausted quickly and don’t walk very far or fast. I haven’t got the push to do everyday things like I used to. Jane also has to cope with my mood swings, and I am very grateful to her. 

“It’s sad to think that our retirement together has been so badly impacted as a result of my condition, although thanks to the hard work of my legal team, I am very grateful to have access to therapies that help considerably. 

“I really hope no one else has to suffer as we have moving forward, but if anyone also finds themselves in the same boat it’s important that they know that there is help out there if they need it.” 

Mr Turner’s lawyer, industrial disease law expert at Thompsons Solicitors, Nick Seymour, added: “Sadly, Mr Turner’s case stands as a stark reminder of the latent dangers that asbestos poses in educational environments and the need for the government to take action to ensure that both teachers and pupils are safe moving forward. 

“While the compensation cannot reverse the diagnosis, it ensures he can access critical treatments and care which will make a considerable difference to his quality of life.” 


Mr Turner’s case was settled out of court without an admission of liability from Devon County Council.