Dame Esther Rantzen, a prominent Jewish British journalist, recently told the Daily Mirror that her cancer diagnosis may be connected to her time working for the BBC.
The 83-year-old spent a significant part of her early career in the former Lime Grove Studios in West London, which allegedly was exposed to asbestos prior to its demolition in 1993.
Rantzen wonders occasionally “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,” she told the paper. “But in my 80s, I knew I had to die of something.”
The BBC reportedly paid some $2 million in damages last year to the families of 11 former staff members who died from cancer after working in buildings where asbestos was present. A spokesperson for the broadcaster told GB News that the BBC “manages asbestos in accordance with all regulations and statutory requirements.”
Rantzen has said that doctors ruled smoking out as the cause of her cancer. It isn’t publicly known if she has the type of illness typically associated with asbestos exposure.
In addition to her journalism, Rantzen has been involved in philanthropic causes, including establishing the charity Childline, which supports teens and young people.
An iconic 1988 episode of the BBC consumer-affairs program “That’s Life!” presented by Rantzen, addressed 669 people—mainly, Czech children—whom British stockbroker Sir Nicholas Winton, the “British Schindler,” rescued during the Holocaust.
In the broadcast, an unsuspecting Winton was surrounded by a studio audience of dozens of people who had survived the Holocaust due to his efforts and hundreds of children and grandchildren of those he rescued. It was finally revealed to Winton that he was among people who owed their lives to his courage.
A new film focuses on Winton. Rantzen had worried about the episode getting “a feature film’s treatment” but said her fears were unjustified when she saw Sir Anthony Hopkins’s convincing portrayal of Winton.
“I knew the story would be told sensitively and accurately,” she told The Telegraph. She added that a preview of the film brought her to tears. “The one thing Nicky always hoped is that we would learn the lessons of history.”