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.