How exposure to asbestos is still putting lives at risk – 20 years since it was banned

At least 5,000 deaths each year in the UK can be linked to asbestos exposure, despite the substance being banned in 1999.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) said people were still being exposed to asbestos, 20 years after it was outlawed in Britain. Headline stats from their report included:

  • 5,000 deaths every year in Britain linked to past asbestos exposure
    Asbestos, which causes fatal cancer, banned in Britain in 1999 – but people are still being exposed to it today
  • 135 companies ordered to stop work and 130 told to improve because of asbestos management failures since January 2018
  • 31 fines in the same period of time – totalling over £900,000 – and in some cases prison sentences handed down too
  • Asbestos is present in at least half a million buildings built before 1999

>> If you have any concerns about the status of asbestos in your place of work or other property, arrange a survey today. <<

Dr Nick Hopkinson, Medical Director at the British Lung Foundation, said:

“Breathing in asbestos dust can cause mesothelioma. Mesothelioma takes a long time to develop and people often get symptoms 30 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos.

Currently the only treatments available are aimed at slowing the progression of the disease and improving quality of life. This devastating disease is preventable, and the dangers of asbestos are well known.

It’s vital companies are vigilant and take the proper precautions to protect people from the life-threatening dangers of asbestos, and take urgent action if asbestos has been found.”

Bev Messinger, IOSH Chief Executive, added;

“It is completely unacceptable that, 20 years on from asbestos being banned in Britain, organisations are still potentially putting at risk the lives of employees, their families and other members of the public’.

With asbestos still present in in the ‘roofing, spray coatings, lagging, insulating boards, ropes, yarns and cloth’ of at least 500,000 buildings constructed before the millennium, IOSH has expressed concern over ‘widespread lack of awareness and uncertainty on how to manage it’, especially among ‘small and medium-sized organisations’.

In 2018, an IOSH survey found that 25% of 500 electricians, carpenters, joiners and roofers admitted to having been exposed to asbestos, while 33% admitted to never checking the asbestos register before starting work on a new site.