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Home » Latest News » What is Global Asbestos Awareness Week and why is it important?

What is Global Asbestos Awareness Week and why is it important?

What is Global Asbestos Awareness Week and why is it important?

Global Asbestos Awareness week is an annual event which takes place in the first week of April.

The aim of Asbestos Awareness week is to alert the global population to the dangers of asbestos and to serve as a reminder that asbestos is still a very real problem. It should be a disease of the past, but sadly it’s very much still of the present.

Even here in the UK where it became illegal to import or use asbestos after 1999, asbestos is responsible for the deaths of upwards of 5000 people every year.

What asbestos is and what it is it used for?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined. It’s varied uses were widely known centuries ago, but commercial use of asbestos began in the UK in the late 19th Century.

The mineral’s popularity was down to its strength and heat resistant qualities. It was particularly useful when turned into woven textile. Amongst other uses, it provided an effective insulation material and was widely used to lag pipes and boilers, as insulation board in British Rail’s train carriages, in mines, shipbuilding, in disc brakes for motor vehicles and as a building material to insulate both homes and commercial premises.

What are the dangers caused by asbestos use?

However, asbestos use came at a price. The fibres that make up asbestos are incredibly harmful when inhaled. When asbestos-based material is disturbed  i.e., cut, torn, sawn or drilled, the dust fibres given off, form into clouds, which anyone in the vicinity cannot avoid inhaling.

Anyone who was exposed to asbestos fibre dust, particularly when exposure took place repeatedly and over a long period, was put at risk of developing asbestos diseases such as

  • mesothelioma
  • asbestos related lung cancer
  • asbestosis, and
  • pleural thickening.

There is still no cure for asbestos disease. Mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer usually cause death within only a few years of the illness being diagnosed.

Asbestos disease does not produce symptoms until decades after exposure, hence the reason people are still dying today from asbestos exposure that took place years ago. All this too, in a country which hasn’t allowed asbestos use in any form, for over two decades.

Is asbestos banned all over the world?

The UK is one of sixty-seven countries that have national asbestos bans.

Russia, China, Brazil, and Kazakhstan still mine asbestos, and there are still more nations that use asbestos, than ones that don’t, even though in some of these countries there are at least restrictions on how asbestos can be used. The USA, Russia, China and India are the four largest countries where asbestos is still in use.

Is there still any danger from asbestos in the UK

It would be folly to think that asbestos disease will automatically fade away, once the last of those  workers who were exposed to asbestos prior to the 1999 ban have been diagnosed with asbestos disease.

The truth is that asbestos is still around us today, in thousands of public buildings such as hospitals, schools, and government buildings. It is even present in some homes. Here are examples of the forms of asbestos that still exist in some older buildings:

  • Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB),
  • lagging on boiler and pipes,
  • loose fill insulation
  • asbestos spray coated panelling and roofing sheets

The ban on asbestos use, did not extend to enforcing the removal of asbestos from public buildings.

Whilst there is Government legislation to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises, such as the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, research suggests that in practice asbestos management rules are not always thoroughly complied with.

Management of asbestos involves identifying the risk posed by existing forms asbestos, putting plans into place to minimise the dangers it poses to workmen and those who use the buildings, and ensuring the asbestos does not get damaged.

As long as asbestos remains in a satisfactory, undisturbed condition, it will not cause harm. If it gets damaged by work carried out nearby or by the occupants of a building accidently coming into forceful contact with it, then is it a problem because asbestos fibres may be released into the air, leading to the possibility of asbestos exposure to anyone in the immediate vicinity.    

The TUC (Trades Union Congress) and other campaign groups have long been advocating for a new law on asbestos to provide a timescale for the complete eradication of all asbestos from the UK. Until asbestos has been safely removed from all buildings and safely disposed of, the risk of this generation and future ones getting exposed to asbestos, is very real.

Global Asbestos Awareness Week is an opportunity for people all over the world recognise that:

  • Asbestos is still mined, exported, and used in many countries around the world. Almost 70% of countries have not banned asbestos
  • Even in countries where it is banned, asbestos is still present in many buildings. In the UK alone it is estimated that there is asbestos in 1.5 million buildings including schools and hospitals.
  • Asbestos disease still kills over 5000 people a year in the UK, despite asbestos having been banned for over twenty years.
  • The long latency period (the period between asbestos exposure and symptoms of asbestos disease appearing) means that we do not know how many people are still being exposed to the asbestos that is still present in older buildings or from illegally dumped asbestos.
  • We will only know, in twenty or more years’ time, the extent to which today’s asbestos exposure results in more victims of asbestos disease.

 

Bridge McFarland LLP’s experienced asbestos compensation solicitors help the victims of asbestos disease to bring asbestos claims against their former employers for causing them to be exposed to asbestos.

There are strict time limits for making an asbestos disease claim, so if you have recently been diagnosed with asbestos disease or are worried you might have got an asbestos related illness, contact us now on 01482 320 620 or email [email protected] and one of our experienced asbestos lawyers will call you back.