Concerned people regularly contact us because asbestos is still present in their home or workplace. Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, but can still be found in buildings all over the country. This is because it was widely used in construction for many decades. The UK government has decided to ‘manage’ asbestos in many buildings, rather than remove it.
What do the experts say?
The IOM (institute of Occupational Medicine) has recommended that there should be a careful, scientific review of proposals to accelerate the removal of asbestos from UK buildings. The IOM is one of the leading providers of workplace health research and consultancy services in the UK. They state that the current approach is outdated, and believe that further research is needed to develop a strategy to best protect the public and workers.
In 2006 the World Health Organisation concluded that the, “Most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related disease is to stop the use of all types of asbestos.” The use of asbestos is not banned in all countries but there is growing support for a worldwide ban. We regularly report on developments on bans. Recently, we were happy to report on the ban in Ukraine.
The IOM have discussed two main options for dealing with the asbestos left behind in UK buildings. The first option is to eradicate all asbestos from buildings. This is supported by the UK All Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health.
In October 2015, the IOM recommended that legislation should be brought in to speed up the eradication of asbestos from buildings. They recommend that all asbestos should be removed by 2035 but state that asbestos should be removed from public and educational buildings by 2028.
Problems & Risks:
Clearly it would cost a lot to implement such a proposal. There are also serious concerns that the removal itself would risk exposing people to asbestos products. Following removal, background levels of asbestos can rise for several months which would also pose issues. Whilst at first glance, removal may seem like the best option, this option also poses problems and risks.
The second option is to improve the current policy of managing asbestos in buildings. The IOM propose a programme of maintaining materials in good order, and removing asbestos whenever reasonably practical during planned refurbishments. This is also the current recommendation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Problems and Risks:
This proposal relies on proper management and ensuring that any asbestos which remains present is indeed in a good state of repair and does not pose a significant risk.
We need more research:
More research will clarify whether, and in what circumstances, the risks involved in careful management outweighs the risks of accelerated removal. The IOM suggest looking at:
- The concentration of asbestos following maintenance versus the concentration of asbestos following removal.
- How many people could be exposed to asbestos in both scenarios.
- How long the exposure might persist.
We believe that whilst asbestos remains present in buildings, the risk of asbestos disease remains.
How can we help?
We may be able to help you claim compensation for asbestos-related conditions. Please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to our ‘contact us’ page, complete the form, and we will be in touch.