The dangers of asbestos are now commonly known across both the building trade and wider society as a whole. We know that exposure to the material can cause a variety of health problems but these take time to manifest and by the time they do, it's often too late for the individual in question. For the last 30 years, asbestos death rates have increased exponentially reaching around 5,000 deaths in the UK per year. What we must remember is that this figure (as quoted by National Asbestos Helpline) is reflective of individuals whose symptoms have developed and progressed following the 10-50 years it takes to manifest after exposure. The rates of death we are seeing at present reflect those that were exposed in the 1950 - 1970 period and we are still to experience those from 1970 to 1999.
Limiting exposure has always been the key to mitigating asbestos hazards but with no definitive records of what buildings contain asbestos, pinpointing an exact number is difficult. We do know however that there are long serving buildings used by thousands of people a year.
The amount of asbestos currently in pre-2000 built educational establishments has come into question recently. This is due to the rise in mesothelioma related deaths amongst teachers since 1980, a trend which has seen the death rate rise year-by-year. The Department For Education has estimated that 75% of UK schools contain asbestos. More worryingly when asbestos usage was at its peak between 1945-1974 around 13,000 schools were built. The use of asbestos in schools was designed to keep fire spread at bay whilst also insulating the many features of the building such as ceiling panels, boilers, roofing sheets and pipes. Pipe and central heating maintenance in schools takes place regularly which can disturb asbestos and disseminate deadly fibers into the atmosphere. Such was the concern, that the Medical Research Council even stated that “It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that the entire school population has been exposed to asbestos in school buildings”
Hospitals are by their very nature large scale building projects that don’t get built very often and the majority of UK hospitals are considerably old. Large networks of heating pipes and boiler systems make it very likely if not certain that the majority of UK hospitals contain asbestos panelling. In fact, the BBC reported that as of October 2018 90% of UK hospitals were confirmed to have asbestos present in their structures. There have been ongoing claims made by both patients and staff against the NHS relating to exposure to asbestos whilst in hospital environments from which, 352 claims were made. In February this year these claims developed more weight when Mags Portman, a pioneering HIV doctor, died from mesothelioma resulting from exposure whilst working in a Scottish hospital. The issue of asbestos in healthcare settings comes down to a difficult crossroads: if trusts keep asbestos in their hospitals and class it “secure” then they risk it becoming fragmented and hazardous overtime which may result in more cases like that of Mags Portman if not hundreds more patient claims and subsequent payouts. On the other hand, a complete and thorough asbestos removal may interfere with the clinical schedules of a hospital which runs constantly. It should be noted that in spite of this, there has been some success stories of trusts achieving this without clinical disruptions.
Asbestos is a serious health risk that is still a danger to millions of Britons despite the 1999 total ban. At Asbestos Gone, we have over 10 years experience providing thorough asbestos surveys in Kent and London. Our trained operatives are methodical and safety conscious, giving you full confidence. Arrange your survey with us today.