£19k awarded to woman for asthma from air pollution

Compensation of £19,000 was awarded in 1997 to a 51 year-old woman who contracted asthma and became clinically depressed as a result of exposure to the air pollutant gluteraldehyde in the workplace.

Injury Details

The Claimant, who was aged 45-46 at the time at which actionable damage occurred, was employed as a nurse by the defendant hospital.

She began her employment in 1989, and for around two years she worked in an environment that involved extensive exposure to gluteraldehyde. She began to feel lethargic during working hours and often found herself to be breathless.

In late 1991 and early the following year, she suffered from two separate asthma attacks of notable severity and was later diagnosed as having occupational asthma.

Within three months her role was downgraded and she was moved by her employers to the nuclear medicine department on a part-time basis.

She was frustrated by her new position being left undefined. Further, this role did not relieve the Claimant of exposure to the harmful pollutant that had triggered her asthma in the first instance.

She was placed by an ambulance bay, which brought about exposure to harmful fumes and therefore a deterioration in her condition.

The Claimant suffered from further attacks and her poor health forced her to take periods of time off work. She began to feel that the stresses of her job exacerbated her symptoms and placed a psychological burden upon her for which she did not receive sufficient support.

The lack of certainty over her future career prospects, caused by her illness, and the stress of her new role, triggered clinical depression in the Claimant who took an extended break from work in late 1992.

After six months, she was not deemed fit to return, diagnosed as suffering from fatigue and burnout. She was forcibly retired from her employment in August 1993, still unable to carry out her duties.

She took every precaution to avoid any exposure to gluteraldehyde, which was a very bad trigger for her asthma.

Award

The matter eventually progressed to a court hearing.

The Claimant was awarded damages totalling £19,000 broken down as follows:

  • £14,000 in general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity
  • £5,000 for loss of congenial employment