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A recent groundbreaking report has raised concerns about the presence of dangerous asbestos in public buildings, leading to calls for more action from the government to tackle the issue.
The first-ever report into asbestos in UK buildings by the Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association (ATaC) and the National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants (NORAC) is a response to the recent inquiry into asbestos management in the UK by the Work and Pensions Committee.
The Work and Pensions Committee’s inquiry into the Health and Safety Executive’s approach to asbestos management highlighted that little evidence exists about the current extent and condition of asbestos in Britain’s public buildings.
Asbestos threat in numbers
NORAC and ATaC report launched their report in Parliament last month with the support of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Chair, Steven Timms MP.
The report reveals that out of 130,000 buildings constructed before the asbestos ban in 1999, an alarming 78% contain asbestos. Of these, 7 in 10 (71%) public buildings are a “high risk” to human health.
A quarter (24%) of the damaged asbestos was so seriously damaged that it would require a specialist licensed contractor to handle it or remove it.
Damaged asbestos in public buildings
Despite its ban over 20 years ago, asbestos remains the UK’s biggest health and safety risk, accounting for about 5,000 deaths a year.
ATaC and NORAC found that 100,660 public buildings contain asbestos in areas such as floor tiles and roof felt.
They report the amount of asbestos found within the UK’s property portfolio is “significantly higher than expected” and the overall condition of the asbestos materials is “poorer than anticipated.”
Much of the asbestos material had been “unaddressed” despite being discovered during previous inspections. They claim that asbestos management is “failing” and called for a comprehensive audit of at-risk buildings.
Calls for a national asbestos database
Responding to the publication of the ATaC and NORAC report, Steven Timms MP points out that the data could provide a good basis for a national asbestos database.
A national asbestos database was a suggestion by the Committee’s own report earlier this year. This would give a comprehensive analysis of the scale of the problem in all public buildings, from schools, hospitals, and office blocks to social housing.
However, the government rejected the calls for an asbestos database, despite criticism that the government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has minimal information about the amount of asbestos in public buildings.
Clear need for asbestos removal
The report’s authors are clear – there is currently a high proportion of asbestos materials in public buildings in the UK that could present a potential risk to public health, and which need remediation or removal.
“Sadly, the UK has one of the worst asbestos legacies in the world. And at Novum Law, we see the devastating result of this every day when we help and support people who have been diagnosed with severe asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and pleural thickening.
“We are living with a ticking timebomb where tens of thousands of people are unknowingly being exposed to dangerous asbestos dust and fibres in schools, colleges, hospitals, affordable housing, shops, offices, and industrial premises.
“With the typical ‘latency period’ from asbestos exposure to the onset of symptoms around 35 years, it could be a long time before we realise the scale of the human suffering.
“The lack of any effective asbestos management is extremely concerning. Every effort must be made to minimise exposure to asbestos and prevent needless asbestos deaths. It is time the government stepped up and listened to industry experts, campaigners and bodies such as ATaC and NORAC to ensure we can move towards an asbestos-free Britain.”
What to do if you have been diagnosed with asbestos disease
If you or a loved one has been affected by asbestos exposure and diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition, it is vital to speak to a specialist asbestos disease lawyer as soon as possible.
Novum Law has a team of specialist asbestos solicitors who can help and support you make an asbestos compensation claim.