Terminally ill woman raises questions about harmful asbestos at her former Sheffield school

A woman who claims she was exposed to harmful blue asbestos which caused her to develop breast cancer while a pupil at a Sheffield school is calling for answers.

Monday, 2nd September 2019, 12:42 pm
Updated Friday, 18th October 2019, 4:34 pm

Janine Greatrex, 48, from Worksop, was a pupil at Hinde House Comprehensive School between 1982 and 1986 and is currently terminally ill with breast cancer, which has since spread to her liver.

After realising that a number of her former school friends had also been diagnosed with forms of the disease, Janine launched her own investigation and 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.

Since then, Janine said she has spoken to hundreds of people who attended the school throughout the 1970s and 80s, all of whom have been affected by asbestos-related cancer and is trying to examine a possible link between the two.

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Hinde House School, Sheffield.

She said: “I remember being told our lessons were being moved into huts while repair work was taking place on the lower hall and that’s where we stayed for about six months. At that age you don’t question why you’re being moved. I later found out they found blue asbestos in the walls and in the windowsills. I know once you leave school you don’t keep in touch but I’ve had past friends who were very fit at school that have died from cancer. More and more people kept mentioning it to me – one of my friends died from cancer just a couple of weeks ago,” Ms Greatrex added.

“I started looking into it, looking on the forums and Facebook groups and set up my own page. I’ve received well over 300 messages from people who have lost parents, friends or people who have had cancer themselves.

“It’s nice to know there are other people out there who are just wanting answers.”

Around 15 years ago an inquiry was launched after it came to light that over a dozen former pupils had been struck down by various forms of the disease but did not reach a conclusion.

The former Hinde House Comprehensive building, in Shiregreen, was demolished to make way for the Hinde House Secondary School in 2005 and is now run by Brigantia Learning Trust.

Coun Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet member for education and skills at Sheffield City Council, said: “We are very sorry to hear of Ms Greatrex’s condition. Asbestos was widely used in the 1960s and 70s but it was banned in the UK in 1999. Sheffield City Council work with all local authority schools offering guidance and support to manage asbestos safely and effectively in line with current legislation.”

A system is also in place which supports safe working in all buildings to prevent the disturbance of asbestos.”