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Asbestos lawyer reacts with dismay to think tank report on children’s exposure to asbestos

ResPublica has highlighted the lax regulatory framework around asbestos in the UK

Primary school classroom

25 November 2019

Asbestos lawyer Harminder Bains has reacted with dismay to the publication of a report, Don’t Breathe In; Bridging the Asbestos Safety Gap by the think tank ResPublica. The report has been published as part of its UK-wide campaign, Airtight on Asbestos.
 
Six million tonnes of asbestos is estimated to be present in the UK even though it is twenty years since the UK banned its manufacture and use.
 
The report states that asbestos is present in more than 1.5 million public buildings in the UK, including hospitals, social housing and schools.  It says many of these building are in a poor state of repair meaning that new generations are being exposed to this toxic substance which is the only cause of the fatal lung cancer, mesothelioma.
 
The think tank is particularly critical of British asbestos regulation and is calling for UK standards to be bought up to the highest international standards as practised in Germany, the Netherlands and France. It reports that, in the UK, children are able to inhale levels of airborne asbestos as much higher levels than in other countries.
 
The report says that the technology used in the UK to measure airborne asbestos fibres in far less accurate than in other countries.
 
Other key recommendations in the report include:
 
  • The establishment of a central register of all asbestos found in public buildings in the UK;
  • The commissioning of a cost-benefit analysis for the removal of all asbestos from public buildings in the UK;
  • The revision of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publication ‘Duty of Manage;
  • The updating of the HSE guidance and risk assessment around asbestos;
  • That the HSE should accurately measure asbestos fatality figures and the actual harm caused by asbestos;
  • That the HSE should check that public buildings are safe from asbestos though the periodic use of sensitive air monitoring in line with the highest international standards;
  • That UK research bodies should consider gaps in the academic literature around the risks that asbestos-containing materials post, particularly in children compared to adults.
 
Asbestos lawyer Harminder Bains says:
 
“I am shocked and dismayed by the findings of this report.  The exposure of school children to asbestos is particularly worrying as their underdeveloped lungs are more likely to be susceptible to the toxic effects of asbestos.
 
“The government must take note of the Asbestos in Schools [http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/] campaign which has been highlighting this danger for many years. The government must act now to protect the UK’s children.” 


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