Staveley Chemicals: Ex-worker's shock to hear of cancer deaths

Staveley Chemicals while it was still in operation, courtesy of former employee John Norman.
Staveley Chemicals while it was still in operation, courtesy of former employee John Norman.

A former worker at the Staveley Chemicals site has told of his shock at the revelations that four men have died from the same rare cancer.

John Norman, 59, worked at the plant for over 20 years and started at the company as an apprentice when he was only 16, and has spoken of the loose safety measures in place at the time.

Widow Audrey Musson wants answers after her husband Neville was killed by Glioma years after leaving Staveley Chemicals.

Widow Audrey Musson wants answers after her husband Neville was killed by Glioma years after leaving Staveley Chemicals.

He was a friend and colleague to Martyn Collis, an electrician at the firm who died in 2014 from the rare and incredibly aggressive brain cancer, Glioma, and who's wife Jacqui Collis is now calling for people to come forward for a TUC investigation into the deaths.

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Feature ‘Why did our husbands die of the same cancer?’

John, who now lives in Somersall, Chesterfield said: "It's been a shock to me to find this out .I'm 59 and those guys are there in their 60s, I had high blood pressure and a bad heart I was working with benzene in the 1980s.

The engineer, who now works for an offshore oil and gas company, added: "Martyn was a firm friend and because I moved away from the industry I left a lot of those people behind. It's a shock and it's one of those things. It could happen to me."

"You didn't really have the information at the time. In those days you never used to wear masks, or gloves, no eye protection in the 70s and 80s it wasn't mandatory.

"It's aggressive, you get really ill really quickly. "It's very scary, and for each of them they didn't know until it was too late. We're getting to our sixties now and the guys who worked there aren't making it."

The investigation into four similar deaths intends to address any links with chemicals handled at the site, and if these are linked to the glioma.

John Knight of the TUC's health and safety team (TRUST) 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.

“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 another of the workers 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,” says Audrey. “It’s so upsetting, but we’ll see what comes out of this.”

“If there’s anybody else out there who’s husbands had brain tumours, we’d like anybody to come forward."

Contact 01246 380 415 if you can assist TRUST's research into the plant.