A stone mason who contracted silicosis after allegedly being exposed to dust while working on Elgin Cathedral in Scotland has accepted a £3.5m compensation settlement, believed to be among the largest of its kind.
Gordon Walters worked on the renovation and maintenance of the cathedral in the Moray town in the 1980s.
According to his solicitors, Thompsons Solicitors, it is believed to be among the largest settlements for a worker diagnosed with silicosis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Walters had been exposed to “significant” amounts of stone dust, they argued.
The BBC reported that the Scottish Government had confirmed ministers had agreed to settle the case, which predated the public body which now operates the cathedral. Historic Environment Scotland – formerly Historic Scotland – is now responsible for Elgin Cathedral.
Health and safety
Walters’ case was pursued with the help of the PCS trade union, whose general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We’re pleased to have helped secured this settlement for Gordon. We will continue to fight for our members’ wellbeing whatever the issue.”
The Scottish Government said in a statement: “Scottish ministers have recently agreed to the settlement of this case from the 1980s.
“The circumstances of the case predate devolution and it was also before Historic Scotland was established as an organisation.
“The Scottish Government is not funding the settlement from the funding for Historic Scotland’s successor body, Historic Environment Scotland,” it added.
Walters himself said of the disease: “It’s ravaged my body and means I have to be supported and cared for in almost every aspect of my daily life,” adding that the settlement would make it possible for proper care to be put in place.
Separately, research has suggested that the London Underground is polluted with ultra-fine metallic particles that are small enough to end up in the human bloodstream.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge carried out a new type of pollution analysis, using magnetism to study dust samples from Underground ticket halls, platforms and operator cabins.
The team found samples contained high levels of a type of iron oxide called maghemite. Since it takes time for iron to oxidize into maghemite, the results suggest that pollution particles are suspended for long periods, because of poor ventilation throughout the Underground, particularly on station platforms.
Some of the particles are as small as five nanometers in diameter: small enough to be inhaled and end up in the bloodstream, but too small to be captured by typical methods of pollution monitoring. However, importantly, the researchers emphasised that it is not clear whether these particles pose a health risk.
The results have been published in the journal Scientific Reports. The paper’s senior author, Professor Richard Harrison from Cambridge University’s Department of Earth Sciences, said: “Since most of these air pollution particles are metallic, the underground is an ideal place to test whether magnetism can be an effective way to monitor pollution.
“Normally, we study magnetism as it relates to planets, but we decided to explore how those techniques could be applied to different areas, including air pollution,” he added.