Woman, 49, died as a result of exposure to talcum powder

A 49-year-old woman died as a result of suspected exposure to talcum powder, an inquest has heard.

Therese Lawlor of Bloomville, Church Rd, Malahide, Co Dublin, died on April 16, 2015.

She had suffered due to ill health since a workplace incident in 1993, but died due to deposits of foreign materials in her lungs, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

Ruling out other workplace environmental hazards such as farm or mining materials, the inquest heard that the most likely cause was an exposure to talcum powder earlier in her life.

Dr Munah Sabah, consultant pathologist, found needle-shaped silicate deposits in the woman’s spleen, liver, and bone marrow during a postmortem examination.

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

Ms Lawlor, who had worked as a sales representative in a commercial shopping environment, underwent two surgeries and multiple hospital stays following a workplace incident 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.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard she had never lived on a farm or near a mine and had only worked abroad during a J1 summer visa when she was employed in a solicitor’s office in New York.

Ms Lawlor developed breathing problems in 2010. She had had chronic back pain since her 1993 incident and had trouble moving around the house.

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 her that night and found her dead in bed around 11am the following day.

The cause of death was cardiorespiratory failure due to extensive pulmonary fibroids and hypertension due to deposition of foreign material in the lungs.

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

The coroner 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,” said Dr Cullinane.

Talc is a type of silicate, the court heard. It is too late to treat the effects of exposure once it develops into fibrosis. “Once you develop this there is no going back,” said Dr Sabah.


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