Calls for asbestos investigation after dozens of former Sheffield schoolfriends develop cancer
A Sheffield-born cancer survivor is calling for an investigation after discovering she was just one of at least seven former school friends to have been diagnosed with the disease.
Emma Gierschick, 51, was a pupil at Newfield Comprehensive School, in Norton Lees, between the late 1970s and early 1980s and was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago.
Now in remission, the mum-of-one first began to ask questions after she realised that a cluster of her former school friends had fallen victim to the disease.
So she decided to take her plight to Facebook and was inundated with messages from those who went to Newfield School around the same era.
“There was a cluster of about six or seven of us that kept in touch,” she said. “We lived within a 100-metre radius of each other when we were at school – some in my year and some in the year below or above.
“I’ve got no history of cancer in my family and just thought it was a bit of a coincidence. They were all fit, young, healthy women but now everyone I knew in Sheffield has passed away. I said does anyone else know anyone or had relatives that had cancer.
“I was just surprised by the volume of people stating they have either been diagnosed or lost someone who went to Newfield – so I would definitely question a link.”
Last month The Star revealed how a former pupil of Hinde House Comprehensive School, who is terminally ill with breast cancer, was stunned to discover a number of her former school friends had also been diagnosed with forms of the disease.
After launching her own investigation, she discovered that blue asbestos was found in the wall claddings at Hinde House in 1977, a find that led to pupils being X-rayed and the school being closed for several weeks.
Emma, who moved to Australia over 20 years ago, is now calling for the council to launch an investigation into the presence of asbestos of Newfield School.
“Most people seem to be getting diagnosed or dying in their 40’s so around 25 to 30 years after leaving Newfield,” she added.
“Apparently Newfield was built on waste ground and Someone has stated that a fireman confirmed there was asbestos, along with a former employee who stated she knew it had asbestos in the ceiling.
“A former Newfield pupil Shaun Clarke is a friend and works as a Diplomat. His late wife Karen died of breast cancer a few years ago – he commented that she also went to Hinde House.
“I think if this went public you would find a lot more people coming forward.”
An inquiry was launched after it came to light that over a dozen former pupils from Hinde House Comprehensive had been struck down by various forms of the disease but this did not reach a conclusion.
Health experts said that for such a large number of former pupils from the same school and era to be struck down by the disease is likely to happen by chance only once every 333 years.
According to figures from Cancer Research UK, around 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
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