Oliver's family think asbestos exposure at Maida Vale flat led to fatal cancer
- Credit: Family/LDRS
Did growing up on the Maida Vale Estate contribute to Oliver Blalock's premature death from lung cancer aged just 35?
That's the question being asked by the Londoner's family.
Oliver died in 2018, only weeks after discovering he was ill. His family believe his sudden illness may have been caused by exposure to asbestos when he was young - and now they're appealing for help to locate his old neighbours.
“Bubbly and loving” Oliver left behind his daughter Poppy, now aged 11, and his mother, Catherine Pasquio, who raised Mr Blalock in a flat at Glasgow House in Maida Vale.
According to Ms Pasquio, an ongoing inquest in Surrey has heard from two experts that “on the balance of probability” her son’s cancer resulted from exposure to asbestos.
Ms Pasquio, 68, who now lives in France, believes the exposure happened in 1991 when asbestos was removed from the common areas of their Westminster Council tower block, Glasgow House, over a number of weeks.
She believes her son was nine years old at the time.
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Westminster Council said it extended its sympathies to Ms Pasquio and her granddaughter, but did not wish to comment on the case.
Recalling what it was like when the work took place, Ms Pasquio said: “I can remember seeing my son walking through the long corridor. There was dust everywhere.
“There was protection for them [the workers] they were wearing protective suits, while no protection was given to the people living there.
“But there was no advice for us about moving out of the flat or protecting ourselves with a mask or anything.”
She added: “On one occasion, we walked outside the front door of the flat and the dust was so thick in the air that my partner went back inside to get a wet cloth to put over Oliver’s face whilst we walked through it.”
Ms Pasquio said her son was “very bubbly and loving and excitable”.
Before his death, he had planned to open a vegan restaurant in Lewes, Sussex, with his girlfriend. He had spent his career selling advertising space in business magazines.
She continued: “My son told me he had cancer of the lungs and he died within three weeks. It was extremely quick and he had always been a fit and healthy boy.
“To begin with he thought he had bronchitis and that he had liquid on his lungs. He was given antibiotics but they wouldn’t work and a few weeks later he had died.
“I find it quite difficult to talk about. It was heartbreaking.”
Ms Pasquio, and her solicitors Simpson Millar are appealing for help to find other residents of Glasgow House who would corroborate her claim that residents were exposed to asbestos during the renovations in 1991.
Industrial disease expert Anthony Waddington from Simpson Millar said: “[Mr Blalock’s] family are now desperate for answers about the circumstances that led to his exposure, and we would be very grateful to hear from anyone who has any information about the work carried out on the Maida Vale-based Glasgow House block of flats in London during the early 1990s.”
Anyone with information that could help the family can contact Mr Waddington by emailing Anthony.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The inquest at Surrey Coroner’s Court, which last sat on February 7, is expected to resume in June, when a third expert has completed an examination of a sample of his lung tissue. The third expert will then add their opinion to the question of whether exposure to asbestos caused Mr Blalock’s death.
Ms Pasquio said she may seek to sue the council if the inquest confirms her belief that her son’s exposure to asbestos in Glasgow House led to him developing his fatal lung cancer.
A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “We extend our sympathies to the family of Oliver Blalock. Due to the ongoing inquest, it is not appropriate for us to comment further at this stage.”