UK union group probes rare brain cancer cluster

Audrey Musson is one of five widows of Staveley Chemicals workers who died from the rare brain cancer, glioma. Pictured with a photo of her late husband Neville. Photo: Sheffield Star

The families of five chemical plant colleagues who all died of a rare type of brain cancer have said they want answers. The cluster of glioma cases, affecting men who all worked at Staveley Chemicals in Derbyshire, was unearthed by the Chesterfield-based Trade Union Safety Team (TRUST).

The ongoing investigation by the trades council-linked TRUST, working with experts from Stirling University’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, is exploring links with chemicals handled at the site.

TRUST’s John Knight, who with colleague Joanne Gordon is leading the research, said: “Having done some initial research we have found that in the normal population, 8 in every 100,000 people would be expected to die from this rare condition, here we have at least four in a localised vicinity. This together with the fact that the men died within a few years of each other makes it very unusual.”

He added: “As part of our in-depth research we will also look into possible causes of this rare brain cancer, including any exposure to hazardous substances such as known carcinogens like benzene and mercury.”

Audrey Musson, the widow of Staveley glioma victim Neville Musson, said she hopes a new investigation into any links between the deaths and the chemical plant may give them, and potentially others, some answers.

She added: “They all died of these brain tumours, so alarm bells started ringing. The researchers now are trying to find a link with the chemicals. It’s so upsetting, but we’ll see what comes out of this. If there’s anybody else out there whose husbands had brain tumours, we’d like anybody to come forward.”

TRUST’s Joanne Gordon said: “We will do our level best to get to the bottom of what is a very concerning case.”

In a statement, the last owners of Staveley, French firm Rhodia, said it was sympathetic to the concerns of the families and would respond if reliable data or new findings became available.


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