Bristol City Council’s Head of planned maintenance said in 2019: “The [asbestos] monster has been with us for a number of years and we have a way of managing the monster…” That attitude is typical of English local authorities.
A law firm, Stephensons Solicitors LLP, has discovered that more than 30,000 Council run buildings in England contain asbestos. They found out by using freedom of information requests.253 out of 333 councils have responded to the requests so far. There was at least one building containing asbestos in every local authority.Danielle Callaway, one of the partners, said: ‘I’m sure many people will be shocked to see the levels of asbestos in public buildings. While the risk may be low, even placing a pin into a wall containing asbestos can disturb it and lead to dust being released. For maintenance workers asbestos exposure risks will be much higher.’
Why an asbestos register isn’t enough to protect people from danger
Even low levels of exposure to asbestos dust can cause the fatal illness mesothelioma. Stephensons is now joining the calls for an open register so council workers and contractors can find out exactly where they will find asbestos in these buildings. But we’re calling for zero tolerance of asbestos (#zeroasbestos). We want to see its gradual removal from all publicly owned buildings. This includes council property, hospitals, schools and some social housing. This could be done as part of measures to improve the environment and revive the economy.
Quite apart from the risk to people working in them, there is a substantial risk to public health every time one of these buidings catches fire or is flooded. This can release asbestos dust into the surrounding neighbourhood.
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Photo by Tak-Kei Wong on Unsplash