An auxiliary nurse who worked for the NHS for 37 years has received significant compensation after being exposed to cleaning chemicals that left her with a permanent respiratory disease.

During her employment at a Birmingham hospital, one of the nurse’s duties was cleaning the operating theatres and surgical equipment. She was given cleaning chemicals but was not warned about their hazardous fumes.

The UNISON member regularly used the toxic chemical Glutaraldehyde, which caused stinging sensations to her nose and throat. Just six months into her employment she began to notice health problems and after seeking medical advice, the nurse was told she had developed asthma.

Over a period of 10 years, the nurse began to develop discomfort in her chest, tightness in the lungs and difficulty breathing. Her health deteriorated so much so that she was admitted to hospital where it was suggested, for the first time, that her condition may be a result of toxic fumes.

The nurse contacted her trade union, UNISON, who instructed industrial disease specialists Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation on her behalf.

The nurse said: “I am now very prone to chest infections and it’s a struggle to breathe easily, which obviously affects me a lot. I’ve been forced to give up the job I enjoyed for 37 years because it was making me sick. It really is upsetting to think that I was damaging my health unknowingly for so long.”

The woman gave up her job because of her condition and is now only physically able to work a few hours a week at a nursing home.

John Mullen, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “There really is no excuse for exposing staff to hazardous chemicals without any warning or the provision of personal protective equipment. If a proper risk assessment had been carried out then our client’s health would not have suffered to the extent it has and in return she wouldn’t have to live with her permanent breathing problems.”