Collection DAL - Alan Dalton papers

Identity area

Reference code

GB 249 DAL


Alan Dalton papers


  • 1899 - 2003 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

12.8 metres

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Alan Dalton was a campaigner on workplace safety, health and environmental hazards for nearly thirty years and has been described as ‘an under-their-skin irritant to dangerous industries and their friends’ [obituary by Rory O’Neil in the Guardian, 16 December 2003].

He was born in May 1946 in West Ham, London, where his parents worked at the Silvertown Tate and Lyle sugar factory. After gaining a BSc in Chemistry at the University of Bath, he worked for several years as a research and development chemist in the pharmaceutical industry. In 1974, his career changed direction with his appointment as Research Fellow in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety at the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, where he led the Society’s campaign on asbestos and helped found 'Hazards Bulletin', a grassroots safety magazine. In 1978, he was appointed Lecturer in Health and Safety at South West London College. In 1979, he published 'Asbestos: Killer Dust' and was subsequently sued for libel by a doctor whom he criticised in the book for his pro-industry views and advocacy of the safe use of asbestos. Dalton lost the case and was bankrupted by the legal bill. He continued, however, to champion grassroots workplace and environmental activism, holding a succession of different roles: from 1981 to 1989, he was Researcher in Health and Safety at the Labour Research Department; from 1990 to 1992, he was Consultant, Lecturer and part-time Fellow at Camden Occupational Health Project; from 1992 to 1994, he was Senior Lecturer in Safety, Health and Environment at South Bank University; from 1995 to 1998, he was Health and Safety Co-ordinator at the Transport and General Workers’ Union, where he nurtured a new network of union safety representatives and forced environmental issues to the centre of the union safety agenda; from 1999 to 2001, he was a community representative on the board of the Environment Agency; and in 2000, he became part-time Senior Environmental Adviser at the Centre for Environmental Quality at the University of East London. In 2000, he published 'Consensus kills'.He died in December 2003.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Correspondence and papers from most of Dalton's career. The collection includes:

  • papers on Dalton's career and the libel cases brought against him
  • correspondence and papers originating from Dalton's roles at the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, the Transport and General Workers' Union, the Environment Agency and others
  • correspondence with fellow activists, occupational health experts, academics, doctors, solicitors, politicians, trade unionists, campaign groups, asbestos victim support groups and others
  • subject files on environmental and occupational health issues, particularly asbestos
  • publications by Dalton and letters to the press
  • consultancy and expert witness work
  • notes and papers from conferences and meetings
  • correspondence and papers relating to Dalton's involvement in the production of television and radio programmes on asbestos, together with a series of video recordings and transcripts of documentaries and other programmes collected by Dalton on asbestos and other environmental and occupational health and safety topics.
  • press cuttings on asbestos and other environmental and occupational health issues
  • Dalton's library of books, academic papers, reports and other publications on asbestos and other environmental and occupational health issues

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The collection when donated was in a state of considerable disorder. Wherever possible, it has been arranged to reflect Dalton's own arrangement. It was clear, for example, that he maintained separate series for the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, trade unions, campaign groups, press cuttings, academic papers and an extensive series of subject files. Other parts of the collection, where the original order was not apparent, particularly his extensive correspondence with fellow activists and other individuals, have had an order (eg by correspondent) imposed on them by the cataloguing archivist.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Access to a few files is restricted in compliance with the UK General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 1998. Where there are restrictions, these are noted at the appropriate point in the catalogue. Otherwise the collection is open.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English
  • Japanese
  • Spanish

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