CIÉ coach-builder exposed to asbestos from engines, inquest told
Noel Sweeney (67) died after developing mesothelioma tumour linked to asbestos
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said a postmortem on the remains of Noel Sweeney (67), a father-of-two from Glenaulin Road in Palmerstown, Dublin, confirmed the presence of a malignant mesothelioma. The tumour has a more than 90 per cent association with asbestos dust exposure, he said. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
A CIÉ coach-builder who died of an asbestos-related cancer was exposed to the deadly dust while working on bus engines, an inquest heard.
Noel Sweeney (67), a father-of-two from Glenaulin Road in Palmerstown, Dublin 20, died surrounded by his family at his home on April 5th last year, having developed a mesothelioma – a tumour around the lung very highly associated with asbestos dust exposure.
Dublin Coroner’s Court heard from his wife Cora Sweeney that he had worked as a coach builder or craft worker for CIÉ since the early 70s.
He was responsible for the maintenance of buses, and initially built them until CIÉ started importing coaches from Britain.
He remained working with CIÉ until his retirement in 2011.
Ms Sweeney said it was through the maintenance of bus and train engines that her husband was exposed to asbestos.
‘Break the asbestos’
“The protection built around those engines was made of asbestos. Before they could fix the engine, they had to remove the cover and break the asbestos,” she said.
Her husband was never made aware that asbestos was a toxic substance, she told the coroner.
Even when he read a news report about the singer Christie Hennessy dying as a result of asbestos exposure, she said, he did not realise it was the same substance or that he would develop an “aggressive cancer”.
“Each time the cover was taken off, the asbestos would have been air hosed and the employees didn’t even wear masks back then. They used overalls. My husband would wear one too.
“Most of his life he would bring it home and I would wash it together with all the other clothes. Then he was told to leave the overalls in work for health and safety reasons. They would wash them,” said Ms Sweeney.
Her husband did not complain about his health, Ms Sweeney said, but five years before his death she began to notice changes in his physique, general wellbeing and moods.
He went to the doctor at her behest in June 2012 and was admitted to hospital for testing six months later.
Tests showed he had developed the mesothelioma. Mr Sweeney underwent some chemotherapy and radiotherapy and attended a hospice for pain management.
He returned home in February 2014 and remained there until his death.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said the postmortem confirmed the presence of a malignant mesothelioma.
The tumour has a more than 90 per cent association with asbestos dust exposure, he said.
The cause of death was given as advanced left-sided mesothelioma of the pleura, consistent with asbestos dust exposure.
He returned a verdict of occupational-related disease.