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Woman may have died from talcum powder exposure, inquest told

'Once you develop this there is no going back'

By Louise Roseingrave

Published 06/09/2016

Therese Lawlor developed breathing problems in 2010
Therese Lawlor developed breathing problems in 2010

A woman died as a result of suspected exposure to talcum powder, an inquest has heard.

Therese Lawlor (49) died on April 16, 2015. She had suffered due to ill health since a workplace accident in 1993, but died due to deposits of foreign materials in her lungs, Dublin Coroner's Court heard.

Ruling out other workplace environmental hazards, the inquest heard that the most likely cause was an exposure to talcum powder earlier in life.

Ms Lawlor, of Bloomville, Church Road, Malahide, Co Dublin, had worked as a sales representative in a commercial shopping environment. She had two surgeries following a workplace accident in 1993.

She fell off a stool used for packing shelves in a supermarket and never returned to work, according to her sister Catherine Lawlor.

Ms Lawlor developed breathing problems in 2010. She had chronic back pain since her accident.

On the night before her death she called her sister and asked her to come over to feed her dogs as she was feeling unwell.

Catherine Lawlor stayed with Therese that night and found her dead in bed at around 11am the following morning. The cause of death was cardio-respiratory failure due to extensive pulmonary fibroids and hypertension due to deposition of foreign material in the lungs.

Consultant Pathologist Dr Munah Sabah found needle- shaped silicate deposits in Ms Lawlor's spleen, liver and bone marrow during a post-mortem examination.

She noted that foreign material circulating in the woman's system, predominantly in her lungs, created pulmonary hypertension.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned an open verdict, as the identity of the external agent could not specifically determined.

She noted a growing body of evidence regarding the dangers of exposure to talc.

"The exposure would have been 30 years ago or so, it takes a long time for it to establish," the coroner said.

Talc is a type of silicate, the court heard. It is too late to treat the effects of exposure once it develops into fibrosis, Dr Sabah said.

"Once you develop this there is no going back," Dr Sabah added.

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