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Remembering Nellie Kershaw - 100 years on

Today, 100 years on from from the death of Nellie Kershaw, we will remember her. She was the first ever recorded case of asbestosis.

Sadly, on 14th March 1924, Nellie, aged 33 from Rochdale, passed away as a result of asbestos exposure. Her death, due to pulmonary asbestosis was the first such case to be described in medical literature, and the first published account of disease attributed to occupational asbestos exposure.


In 1903 Nellie left school, aged 12, to take up employment as a cotton rover in a cotton mill and 5 months later began working at Garsides asbestos mill. She then transferred to Turner Brothers Asbestos on 31 December 1917, where she was employed as a rover, spinning raw asbestos fibre into yarn.

Nellie first began to show symptoms in 1920 at the age of 29 but continued to work in the asbestos mill until 22 July 1922, when she was certified unfit to work. Nellie's diagnosis was recorded as "asbestos poisoning and was not eligible for National Health Insurance.

Nellie Kershaw was advised by insurances to seek sickness benefits from her employers (Turner Brothers) as her illness was linked to her occupation, under the Workman's Compensation Act and wrote to her employers on several occasions. However, Turner Brothers refused to accept liability for her illness and paid no benefits to Nellie or her family. They also refused to contribute to her funeral and was sadly buried in an unmarked grave.

The subsequent inquiries into her death led to the publication of the first Asbestos Industry Regulations in 1931

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