‘The UK is sleepwalking into a health emergency, and we implore the Government to take action now.’ That’s the view of Ian Stone, a leading asbestos expert and director of Acorn Analytical Services Northampton, following the publication of a shocking new report which highlights the worrying state of asbestos in public buildings across the UK.
As one of the UK’s leading asbestos consultancies, Acorn Analytical Services was among the companies that supplied data for Damage: The Poor State of Asbestos in Our Schools, Hospitals and Homes, a report compiled by Start Software, which supplies software to the asbestos industry.
The report was officially launched in Westminster when Robin Bennett, Director of Start Software presented the document to Jane Hunt MP and Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Sir Stephen Timms MP.
According to the report’s findings, of the 1.3 million anonymised asbestos samples taken from buildings all over the UK, more than 750,000 were shown to be damaged – 93,000 of them seriously.
But perhaps most shockingly of all the report shows that 55% of the asbestos found in schools is a poor state of repair.
Other key findings from the report include:
- One in five asbestos-containing materials in hospitals and healthcare settings have high damage
- One in nine samples taken were shown to have significant damage with a serious risk of releasing fibres into the air
Ian Stone, Director of Acorn Analytical Services said:
“For many years we have been at the forefront of the fight against asbestos offering advice and practical support to businesses and organisations across the UK. There is no doubt in our minds that the UK is firmly in the grip of an asbestos epidemic and the evidence found in this report makes for grim reading.
“Without even realising it, the UK is sleepwalking into a health emergency.”
As the report makes clear, the asbestos contained within public buildings is deteriorating fast and without prompt action by the Government, and local authorities, many more people will die from mesothelioma – the deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibres – in the years to come.
“Everybody is at risk – including children and the most vulnerable in our society – and we implore the Government and others in authority to take the contents of this report seriously,” said Ian.
“As a community, and as an industry, we must take action – now.”
Asbestos was used extensively in the UK throughout the late 20th Century when demand for new buildings and infrastructure was at its height. Despite being banned from new buildings in 1999 it exists in large amounts in many public buildings. As it decays and fractures, the risk of inhaling asbestos fibres increases, as does the risk of developing mesothelioma.
The UK already has one of the highest rate of mesothelioma in the world, thought to be linked to the widespread use of asbestos in the years immediately after the Second World War.
Last year, the Work and Pensions Committee recommended that a 40-year target be set for the removal of asbestos in non-domestic buildings with Sir Stephen describing asbestos as ‘one of the great workplace tragedies of modern times’.
The Government rejected the recommendations, arguing that asbestos remains safe if it isn’t disturbed. The report concludes that ‘there is a high proportion of asbestos, with signs of damage, currently within UK buildings and the current policy, to leave asbestos in situ isn’t working’.
It also highlights ‘the benefits of a data-driven approach to understanding the condition of asbestos in buildings and how a centralised register would help to better manage asbestos in-situ’.