Former Policeman Developed Mesothelioma, Even Though the Disease is Known as an ‘Industrial Illness’

Police officer with neon yellow vest

Frank Dodd was not a shipyard worker or a pipefitter. He was not a chemical worker, construction worker or even a navy veteran, all of which are careers that have been known to involve asbestos exposure.

He was a policeman.

However, like many who worked in one of the previously listed professions, Dodd died from what the Deputy Coroner for Birmingham called an ‘industrial illness.’

In July of 2009, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the lungs that is caused by asbestos exposure. He died less than two months later.

His wife is still determined to learn how and why her policeman husband could contract a disease that is typically associated with industrial professions and less frequently associated with public service careers like police and firefighting.

Asbestos in the Workplace

According to the wife’s recollections, Dodd’s role as a policeman often involved being around asbestos.

“He told me about one time they were clearing a room in Digbeth police station in the 1970s that was full of it. I know he would have also been exposed to it while at Steelhouse Lane police station when they removed asbestos from there,” said Frances Dodd.

She continued by stating that her legal representatives have obtained witness statements from other retired policemen that help prove that asbestos removal was a frequent occurrence while Dodd was on the force.

Dodd’s wife remains dedicated to determining the cause of this tragedy, while also trying to inform and defend the public.

“I cannot give up the fight to try and find out exactly how he got this terrible disease. It is not something he should have had to contend with as a police officer. This is a man who once won a commendation for chasing a criminal over the roof of a cinema. He was all action and would do everything to defend the public,” she said.

Asbestos is a material that was often used in the construction of buildings and homes built prior to the 1970s, including police stations and offices.

Hayley Hill, a member of Frances’ legal representation, clarified their commitment to learning more about Dodd’s cause of death.

“We’re keen to speak to anyone who worked at Steelhouse Lane police station in the 1970s, as there are confirmed reports there was asbestos present in the building during this period,” said Hill.

Asbestos Exposure & Public Servants

Dodd’s story is not completely unique to public service professions like police work and firefighting. Cases have been recorded that involved public servants who have contracted asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

One of the most notable examples stems from the first responders at the World Trade Center buildings after the 9/11 Attacks. After the buildings collapsed, countless firefighters, police officers, EMTs and normal citizens rushed to aid in the rescue, recovery and cleanup after the attacks.

Unfortunately, the foundation of the collapsed buildings contained asbestos. The fibers of this toxic material were in the air and exposed itself to all of the rescue and responders in some form or another.

According to a study published by the office of Medical Affairs at the New York City Fire Department, among the 5,000 rescue workers involved in the study, all demonstrated some form of lung impairment after the attack.

Furthermore, in another case of mesothelioma in public servants, cases can be found from Hurricane Katrina. As the storm claimed the lives of over 1,800 people, additional lives were harmed from resulting asbestos exposure.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 100 pollutants may have been present in the flood waters, drinking water and air, immediately after the hurricane. As it is extremely likely that asbestos was used in the construction of thousands of homes and buildings in New Orleans, this toxic material became one of the major concerns.

Because of the severe nature of the storm, extensive rescue and recovery efforts were required. As asbestos fibers quickly became airborne, they began to spread throughout the entire city. Firefighters, police officers and other first responders were directly exposed to the toxic material throughout the duration of the rescue and recovery process.


Mark Hall joined the Mesothelioma Center as a writer in 2011. Prior to joining the content team, Mark graduated from the University of Florida and then spent several years writing about business, entrepreneurship and technology for various online publications.

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