A HAIRDRESSER who used to clean hair drying machines that contained asbestos in the 1970s died from mesothelioma decades later, an inquest heard.

Pauline Kirby, from Alresford Road, Winchester, died at Countess Mountbatten Hospice on November 19, 2021.

The 70-year-old had been diagnosed with mesothelioma - a cancer commonly caused by exposure to asbestos - in 2016.

She had first experienced pain in her chest while on holiday in Devon 2012, then in 2016, while on holiday in Dorset, she suffered shortness of breath and a chest infection.

It was following the later incident that her cancer was discovered.

An inquest held at Winchester Coroner's Court on June 13 heard that she believed she had been exposed to asbestos while working at a hair salon in St Albans from 1970 to 1974, where her responsibilities included cleaning hair drying machines that contained asbestos. She had told her family that these were sometimes damaged.

Her husband an electrician, told the hearing that was the only incident that the family could think of that would have seen her exposed.

He said: "We didn't realise at the time that we were being exposed to asbestos. At the time she was cleaning the machines, they were very, very old."

Her son said: "That was the only situation that she could given us where she had been in contact with asbestos."

Her family said that she until the last stages of her illness, she was a healthy and independent woman, who had not smoked.

They said that the Covid lockdowns had an effect on her health, as it meant she could not go on her usual walks or exercise.

She took to pacing her garden, but she never fully regained her level of fitness when restrictions eased.

Mrs Kirby had undergone immunotherapy, but she suffered an allergic reaction last summer, and in November her health rapidly deteriorated. She was admitted to Countess Mountbatten Hospice, where she died five days later.

Coroner Christopher Wilkinson gave a narrative verdict. He said it was not possible to say for certain that the hair salon exposure was the only cause for the disease.

However he added: "It is a possibility that her exposure was at her work. The evidence is not strong enough to say that it was definitely that. My conclusion is that Pauline Kirby died as a result of mesothelioma at Countess Mountbatten Hospice.

"She died from exposure to asbestos that may have resulted from her occupation as a hairdresser in 1970 to 1974."

Mr Wilkinson added: "I have seen many cases of mesothelioma and it is an awful condition."

READ MORE: What happens at an inquest and what can the press report?

For help or support with bereavement in Winchester and the surrounding areas, go to winchesterbereavementsupport.org.uk