BBC issues response to Esther Rantzen claims asbestos in offices 'may have caused lung cancer'

Esther Rantzen

Esther Rantzen was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 27/07/2023

- 15:11

The 83-year-old presenter was diagnosed with stage four cancer back in January

Former That's Life! host Esther Rantzen has questioned the possibility that her time spent working in the BBC's offices may have contributed to her cancer diagnosis.

Rantzen began her career with the organisation in the '60s and spent much of her early days as an employee as a researcher.

But in 1972, Rantzen was given her big break as the face of That's Life! - a role she'd maintain for over two decades up until 1994.

Much of Rantzen's time was spent working at the BBC's Lime Grove Studios which allegedly exposed workers to asbestos before its destruction in 1993.

Toying with the idea that her time at the BBC may have played a part in her illness, Rantzen told the Mirror following her diagnosis: "I’m making the most of each day, usually by sitting in my garden... enjoying the fresh air, the birds and the summer flowers.

"And occasionally wondering whether my particular brand of lung cancer was caused by all the asbestos in the BBC building I worked in for decades...

Esther Rantzen was made a Dame

Esther Rantzen was made a Dame in 2015


"Or (if it was caused) by the air pollution I walked and drove through during my many years as a Londoner."

She added: "But in my 80s, I knew I had to die of something.”

The BBC has reportedly paid £1.64million in damages to families of 11 former staff who died from cancer after working in its buildings where the deadly substance existed.

And now, a BBC spokesperson has told GB News: "The health and safety of BBC staff and all who use BBC buildings is a primary concern.

"The BBC manages asbestos in accordance with all regulations and statutory requirements.”

It remains unknown if mesothelioma, the cancer specifically associated with asbestos, is the type of disease Rantzen has been diagnosed with.

However, doctors have reportedly ruled out smoking as the cause.

Air pollution and asbestos have not been chalked off and thus remain possible causes.

Esther Rantzen and Camilla

Esther Rantzen and Queen Camilla pictured in 2022


As well as as a journalist, Rantzen's helped establish childrens and young people's charity Childline in 1986.

The charity offer teenagers and youngsters support for a wide range of issues they may face.

Her philanthropic work and contributions to journalism led to her he being awarded an OBE in 1991 and a CBE in 2006.

In the 2015, Rantzen was officially made a Dame by Princess Anne.

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