A FORMER school cleaner and caretaker died as a result of exposure to asbestos throughout her career, a court heard yesterday.

Brenda Ann Butcher, 65, of Blackwood, was diagnosed with the cancer mesothelioma on March 7 last year after doctors discovered a tumour on her lung. She died on April 26.

Gwent Coroner David Bowen recorded a verdict of death from industrial disease.

The Newport hearing heard how between 1978 and 1988 Mrs Butcher was employed by Caerphilly council initially as a lollipop lady but went on to work as a cleaner and caretaker at Pengam Primary School.

In a statement written before she died which was read to the court, Mrs Butcher described how she was responsible for cleaning the heating system, including a boiler and pipes, which were lagged with asbestos. She told how when she cleaned, dust would fill the air and she would breathe it in.

The non-smoker said she was never told the dangers the potentially deadly substance posed, nor was she given any protective equipment such as a face mask when working with it.

The court heard Mrs Butcher worked in a number of places where asbestos was present throughout her career, including factories in Newport and the Gossard underwear factory in Pontllanfraith, before she gave up work to care for husband in 1988.

A post mortem examination found her death was as a result of mesothelioma. However, tests carried out by Dr Alan Gibbs concluded the level of asbestos in Mrs Butcher’s lungs was not elevated beyond background level.

In his opinion, there was not enough evidence to suggest it was asbestos related.

But Mr Bowen said he was satisfied that on a balance of probabilities Mrs Butcher’s exposure to the substance in the work place was the cause.

He added it was not the purpose of the inquest to find out which workplace contributed.