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Home » Latest News » Why We Must Not Become Complacent About Asbestos Dangers

Why We Must Not Become Complacent About Asbestos Dangers

Why We Must Not Become Complacent About Asbestos Dangers

Asbestos was banned from being imported a long time ago, but it is still present in far too many buildings around the country.

An article in the Daily Telegraph recently has highlighted the fact that approximately 100 people in the UK are dying of asbestos disease every year, something that the Industrial Disease team at BridgeMcFarland have been raising awareness of for some time.

Experts in such matters, tell us that the current rate of 5,000 deaths from mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, and other related diseases is probably at the highest that it ever will be. They predict that we should start seeing the annual death rates and occurrences of other asbestos illness starting to decline very soon.

The problem is that back in the early-to-middle years of the decade, experts were also predicting that by now we would be very much on a downward slope in terms of the reduction in levels of asbestos deaths.

The Daily Telegraph article explains how the final type of asbestos, chrysotile or ‘white asbestos’, was banned from use in this country in 1999. The more dangerous forms of asbestos (crocidolite known as ‘blue asbestos’, and amosite known as ‘brown asbestos) were outlawed in the mid-1980s. So, it is often baffling to understand why so many people are still being diagnosed with asbestos illness in 2019.

As we have previously written in our blog Asbestos Disease Claims : What You Need to Know, the answer lies in the fact that from the time of asbestos exposure through to someone getting asbestos disease can be a period of many years – there have been cases of the fibres lying dormant for 40 years or more.

The logical argument is that as it is now so long since the use of asbestos was banned, the rate of new diagnoses of asbestos disease should start to drop off any time soon. The problem is that whilst most asbestos disease sufferers got the disease from their workplaces where asbestos was being used as an effective heat resistant material, further threats are emerging that we believe may see annual asbestos death rates maintaining high levels for an indefinite ongoing period.

We see these threats as potentially, coming from the following;

  1. Asbestos deaths occurring from less obvious at-risk occupations – by this we are referring to the fact that asbestos disease has historically been seen as an ‘industrial disease’ in the narrowest sense of the term. Asbestos is at its deadliest when it is being worked on – sawn, planed, or drilled. This is because working on asbestos causes clouds of asbestos dust and fibres to be sent up into the air. Any workers in the vicinity who breathed in the dust, particularly on regular occasions, was at serious risk of asbestos exposure of sufficient a level to cause asbestos disease.

    Asbestos was banned from being imported a long time ago, but it is still present in far too many buildings around the country. When asbestos is left intact it doesn’t generally cause a health hazard in itself, and so there has been a tendency to leave asbestos that is present in buildings alone because safe removal of asbestos is a sizeable and expensive project to undertake.

    So when the BBC, among others, alerted the public to the relatively high numbers of teachers dying from asbestos disease, to those who have been aware that so many of our buildings are riddled with asbestos materials, perhaps it didn’t come as quite as much of a shock, as it did to the press and many of the public. For while we have said that asbestos isn’t generally a health risk when left intact, it is if it starts to break up or decay, as it is undoubtedly doing where it is still present in schools and other buildings, after all these years. 
     
  2. The Telegraph’s article is based on a report by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) which raised concern about the number of buildings containing asbestos ‘and a widespread lack of awareness and uncertainty about how to manage it.’ The report highlighted the concerns about lack of awareness among tradespeople who work on sites where asbestos may be present, thus exposing a new generation of workers to the dangers of asbestos.

    This general lack of ‘awareness’ is also evident from the vast numbers of reports of asbestos fly-tipping in regional press. Is it a lack of awareness or just a lack of concern? If people are being put at risk due to the cost of asbestos disposal then how can we address that affectively?
     
  3. Another worry is the possible de-regulation of asbestos. It is an extremely effective and relatively cheap material that had masses of uses. Could it really ever be used again in this country?

    It is sincerely to be hoped not. In the USA President Trump is said to be a big fan of the use of asbestos in construction and in June 2018 legislation was enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allowed the government to evaluate asbestos use on a case by case basis.

Bridge McFarland’s leading asbestos disease compensation solicitor, Partner James Burrell says; “We have to be careful about being complacent when it comes to our thinking on asbestos, we can’t assume that instances of new asbestos disease diagnoses will start declining. Equally important is remembering that just because asbestos was banned from use and import into the country does not mean it isn’t still present in our buildings and infrastructure.” James Burrell and the Industrial Disease team at Bridge McFarland are always on hand to provide advice to anyone who has been affected by asbestos disease. You can make contact with James and the team on 01482 320620 or by email to info@bmcf.co.uk