New Deadline for Asbestos Removal From Buildings ‘far too Long’

Author:
Anthony Waddington
Senior Associate Solicitor, Industrial Disease Claims
Date:
06/05/2022

MP’s have finally called for a deadline to remove asbestos from public buildings including schools.

This deadline is of course welcome, given that the Work and Pensions Select Committee stated that asbestos is the biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK.

The deadline suggested for removal however is 40 years – this is far too long for those who work, live, and spend time in public buildings which currently expose them to a risk of terminal illness.

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What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral which is naturally occurring. It was predominately used for insulation due to its fire resistance and insulating qualities and it was commonly found in building materials even well into the 1990’s.

 

Why is Asbestos Illegal?

When asbestos containing materials are disturbed, microscopic asbestos fibers or particles enter the air and can be inhaled. Asbestos particles are incredibly durable, so they are not broken down when they enter the human body. They attach themselves to the lungs, causing cells to mutate and become cancerous.

Due to its danger to human health, its use was completely banned across the UK in August 1999. Many other countries have also banned the use of this deadly material.

The Dangers of Asbestos

Over the years, I have been appointed by a significant number of people who have been affected by diseases which are caused by inhalation of asbestos. Some of these people encountered this deadly material in the likes of hospitals, schools, council flats and even libraries; it is shocking to think that you could contract a fatal illness from a place that many people would consider a safe space.

These sorts of asbestos illnesses, whilst more commonly found in those who have worked in heavy industrial sectors and trades, could be contracted by those working in any public building which has asbestos in it which has degraded over time, been disturbed or damaged.

Furthermore, although these diseases can take a long time to develop after exposure has occurred these diseases are not restricted to elderly people as exposure in Schools and the Home as a child could lead to disease in early adulthood, though this is thankfully rare. Unfortunately, many of our clients do not live more than 12 to 18 months after they are diagnosed with asbestos related cancer.

Why is Asbestos Found in Schools and What is the Danger?

As asbestos was commonly used in building materials as late as the late 90’s, it is inevitable that it remains in several public buildings constructed before this date. Unfortunately, this also applies to schools.

Whilst it is important to note that asbestos in any public building poses a fatal threat to almost anyone, asbestos in schools presents a particularly high risk, as according to a study by the UK’s Committee on Carcinogenicity exposure to asbestos as a child may carry a 3.5 times higher risk of disease development than it does than in adults.

This recent announcement is of course a start, but the dangers of asbestos have been prevalent for many decades, and a lot of people are still prematurely dying as a result. This brings a terrible impact to those affected by the disease, directly and indirectly, but also pressure to the NHS. 40 years is simply too long to ensure that this fatal substance does not affect a further significant number of people.

If you are concerned about asbestos related illnesses, or have been affected by it, get in touch with our Asbestos Claims Solicitors to see how we can help you.

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