Young Woman Develops Mesothelioma After Mission Work
A 33-year-old British woman who spent her gap year building a school in Argentina died in May from mesothelioma, her family reports, which she likely developed due to exposure to asbestos during that time in South America.
Rose Wharton was otherwise a “fit and healthy” young woman, family members told the coroner at an inquest regarding her death.
They could think of nowhere else that the medical researcher had encountered asbestos materials other than when she was with a mission team that was building the school in a depressed part of Argentina.
Additionally, Wharton – who was 18 at the time of her travel – had been quite sure that materials used to construct the educational facility contained the toxic mineral, as she had noted when she was first diagnosed with the disease about a year ago.
Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter said it was a ‘very unusual’ case because the illness usually only affects those who’ve worked around asbestos for decades and is most often diagnosed in men over the age of 60.
“I don’t think I have seen a case like this,” he told the hearing. “Mesothelioma normally affects men working as plumbers or heating engineers for 30 or 40 years, but this is very different from that.”
Indeed, Rose Wharton was the exception rather than the rule, though there have been a handful of other young people in the U.K. who’ve succumbed to the disease after early exposure. Nonetheless, mesothelioma is not a diagnosis that a woman Rose’s age expects to face.
Her colleagues at Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford note that they are shocked at her death and plan to do whatever they can to honor her memory, including running a half-marathon next weekend and setting up a crowd sourcing page that will collect money to be donated to peritoneal mesothelioma research.
But there’s nothing they can do, of course, to bring her back.
The case of Rose Wharton, however, is proof that asbestos can kill at any age and that exposure to large amounts of the toxic material can cause mesothelioma disease to develop more quickly than usual.
Though Wharton’s case is rare, it’s also proof that regard for the dangers of asbestos use is not present in all countries and that anyone working in countries where use of asbestos materials is still common should be extra careful about exposure.