'Excellent mum' in Cornwall died from 'smokers' disease' caused by vegetables

Daffodils at Canon's Town by Paul Manuell from Camborne
File photo: Rosa Maria Marques Perestrelo had suffered a 'rare condition' as a result of working as a daffodil picker in Cornwall -Credit:Paul Manuell

A loving mother who worked picking flowers and vegetables in Cornwall died from a ‘smokers'’ lung disease despite having never smoked. Rosa Maria Marques Perestrelo died on August 5, 2023, at her home in Hayle.

An inquest into her death held at Cornwall Coroner's Court in Truro on Tuesday (May 7) heard how the 52-year-old was born in Madeira, Portugal, and began working seasonally in the UK for a number of years from 1998. By 2004 she had become a full-time resident and started working as a daffodil picker in Cornwall.

It was heard how, as part of her role, Rosa would process the daffodil bulbs and this was described as creating a “dusty environment”. She later became a cabbage picker and continued in this job until 2016.


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When she went to see her doctor in 2017 with a chronic cough she had had for over a year she was referred for a scan, which later revealed she had an abnormal right lung. It was heard how a CT scan showed it was more likely a result of an infection rather than cancer, so Rosa was initially treated for pulmonary TB.

However, when her symptoms worsened, it was suggested that she stop working for six to 12 months to see if this helped improve her condition. In January 2023, she was diagnosed with desquamative interstitial pneumonia – a lung disease most commonly associated with smoking.

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Dr Benjamin Soar told the inquest that Rosa’s lung disease was "quite a rare condition” as “the vast majority, 90 per cent plus, are smoking related". He said Rosa, a non-smoker, suffered a rare reaction to organic and non-organic compounds while picking cabbages.

Due to the deterioration of her physical health and concern over her acid reflux, Rosa was not able to receive a lung transplant. Her cause of death was given as pulmonary fibrosis. Dr Soar added that this was likely a result of the desquamative interstitial pneumonia.

A statement read out during the inquest on behalf of Rosa’s stepson, Paulo Nunes, described how she was "a very sociable person, who loved the outdoors and gardening and was an excellent mother and grandmother".

Emma Hillson, assistant coroner for Cornwall, said Rosa’s death was a rare reaction to organic compounds related to exposure at her occupation. A conclusion of industrial disease was recorded.

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