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Crippling Lung Disease Caused by Asbestos Drove Man to Suicide

Crippling Lung Disease Caused by Asbestos Drove Man to Suicide

A man who was left fighting for breath due to lung disease caused by asbestos exposure tried to take his own life, telling his sister ‘I can’t handle it anymore.’

Norman Grimshaw, 65, wrote a suicide note to sister Susan Shaw before downing a cocktail of prescription drugs he had been taking to cope with the pain.

The recently retired hotel chef had been diagnosed just six months earlier with asbestosis and pleural plaques which cause scarring and thickening of the lining of his lungs.

Following his attempt to overdose he called an ambulance, but died in hospital eight days later.

An inquest found his death was caused by respiratory failure as a result of his lungs being damaged by breathing in asbestos dust.

Norman was born in Bolton, but grew up in Oldham and went to Counthill Grammar School, after which he completed an apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery at the former Manchester Tech.

He was a wood machinist at George Hill timber merchants in Oldham from around 1964 to 1970 then moved to Newquay where he worked as a kitchen porter, for a kitchen fitter’s and finally a hotel chef until his death in September 2013.

Susan, 56, from Hollins, said: “He told me the workers at George Hill’s used to make snowballs with it and throw it at each other. When he came home his clothes were covered in dust.

“After he left, he moved to Cornwall and had various jobs in hotels until he retired. He may have been exposed to asbestos in one of those jobs – I just don’t know.”

The mum-of-two added: “It’s tragic. He loved being around people, but he went from being the life and soul of the party to barely being able to leave his flat.

“He couldn’t breathe, he could no longer manage the stairs. He didn’t like burdening people and that’s why he tried to kill himself.

“It said in his diary he couldn’t handle it anymore, that was the last thing he wrote.

“I am angry because if the risks were known, he should have been better protected and could have had many more years with us. It’s such a waste of life.”

Simon Alexander, an industrial disease expert from law firm Slater and Gordon, is trying to trace where Norman would have been exposed to the asbestos which led to his death.

He said: “Many employers were aware of the potential dangers, but chose to ignore them. Some 30 or 40 years later, their former employees are now paying for those mistakes with their lives.

“The last few months of Norman’s life would have been painful and desperately sad for a man who loved being out and about and surrounded by his friends.

“Susan deserves to know how this happened to her brother so if anyone remembers working with him in places where there was asbestos we would urge them to get in touch.”

Call Simon Alexander on 0161 383 3408 or email

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