Esther Rantzen 'wondering' if asbestos in BBC buildings caused her lung cancer

The Childline founder was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year


Dame Esther Rantzen has said she thinks her lung cancer may have been caused by asbestos from the BBC buildings she worked in.

The television presenter, who is 82, revealed in May that the disease, first diagnosed in January, had progressed to stage four.

“I’m making the most of each day, usually by sitting in my garden... enjoying the fresh air, the birds and the summer flowers,” Dame Esther told the Mirror.

“[I am] occasionally wondering whether my particular brand of lung cancer was caused by all the asbestos in the BBC building I worked in for decades – or by the air pollution I walked and drove through during my many years as a Londoner. 

“But in my 80s, I knew I had to die of something.”

Last year, the BBC paid £1.64 million in damages over the deaths of 11 former staff members who died from cancer.

The assorted studio managers, television producers, and set builders, among other jobs, had died of mesothelioma - a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

They had worked at locations including Broadcasting House, Television Centre, and Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham.

Dame Esther told Yours magazine: “This diagnosis has prompted me to look back over the years, and I want to express my profound thanks to everyone who has made my life so joyful, filled with fun, and with inspiration. 

“First and foremost my family. My three children Miriam, Rebecca and Joshua have been the most wonderful support, company, and source of love and laughter and I am deeply grateful to them. 

“My friends have been amazing and have created memories which sustain me and give me strength.”

Dame Esther, known for founding children’s charity Childline, joined the BBC as a sound effects assistant after graduating from Somerville College Oxford.

She then became a researcher on a number of current affairs programmes, before she was appointed to present That's Life! 

Running for 21 years from 1973 to 1994, the consumer affairs show became one of the most popular programmes on British television.

Following her lung cancer diagnosis, Dame Esther said she decided “not to keep this secret any more because I find it difficult to skulk around various hospitals wearing an unconvincing disguise" but is "remaining optimistic".

She added: “My diagnosis of stage four lung cancer made me realise how very lucky I've been in my life, working with Childline and the Silver Line, and meeting so many fascinating and inspiring people, and especially lucky to have spent 21 years working as producer/presenter of That's Life!”

The BBC said: “The health and safety of BBC staff and all who use BBC buildings is a primary concern and the BBC manages asbestos in accordance with all regulations and statutory requirements.”

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