A WOMAN in her late 60s is thought to have come into contact with a harmful substance that caused her death when she was just a child.

Jennifer Rudd, of Radstock Road, Woolston, died at the Countess Mountbatten Hospice on March 24 following an asbestos-related illness.

Winchester Coroner’s Court heard the 68-year-old, who had worked in retail for much of her life, had suffered from a form of cancer called mesothelioma, which is closely linked to the hazardous substance.

In forms filled out by Ms Rudd before her death, she said she thought she might have been exposed to asbestos while working at the Southampton branch of Woolworths, where she said the stock room had asbestos-lagged pipes.

However, senior coroner Grahame Short said he felt that was unlikely as the asbestos dust has to be inhaled, and the pipes were unlikely to have been disturbed.

The inquest then heard a statement from Ms Rudd’s sister, Leonora Lamb, who said their father had worked in as a stevedore, loading and unloading ships at Southampton docks, and worked with asbestos before it was known to be dangerous.

She said as a child Ms Rudd would sit on her father’s knee after he came home from work in the asbestos-covered overalls.

Recording a conclusion of death due to industrial disease, Mr Short said: “The problem is that [mesothelioma] can develop many years, if not decades, after the exposure to the dust.

“Taking into account her working history, I do accept she may have been in an environment where there were asbestos-lagged pipes.

“However, there is very clear evidence, and a number of cases, that secondary exposure to asbestos dust can lead to the development of cancer.”