Residents in London are getting ready for inspections to tackle the problem of Asbestos, a popular building material known for its fireproofing and insulation benefits. The discovery of Asbestos has sparked worries about health and safety due to the increased incidence of mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to exposure to Asbestos, in the United Kingdom.
London’s Dark Secret
The situation regarding Asbestos in London’s buildings is quite concerning.
- One notable example is the Palace of Westminster, where hazardous Asbestos has been discovered in 2,500 locations.
- Despite the ban on Asbestos in 1999, 1.5 million buildings across the country still contain some level of this substance, including 300,000 non-domestic buildings.
- Another worrisome finding was made within NHS buildings in London. According to an investigation, 451 hospitals and buildings still have Asbestos present, which is causing concerns about the safety of workers and the general public.
- Both residential and commercial spaces, including houses, factories, offices, schools and hospitals built or refurbished before 2000, are likely to have Asbestos in them.
To ensure the safety of employees from asbestos exposure, The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states that employers or self-employed individuals must not undertake work that could potentially expose employees to Asbestos without conducting a risk assessment.
Mitigating the Risks
Asbestos exposure can lead to health complications such as lung diseases or cancer with repeated exposure over several years. In fact, it has become the leading cause of work-related deaths in the UK.
The better news is Asbestos only poses a risk when disturbed or damaged as it is only then that fibres are released into the air. If materials containing Asbestos are in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed, they are generally left untouched but closely monitored.
Aaron Chapman, Managing Director of AJC Environmental Ltd, said: “Asbestos is a highly emotive subject with a devastating history. According to data from UKATA, there were 2,268 mesothelioma deaths in 2021, with a similar number of lung cancer deaths linked to past exposures to Asbestos. This is why at AJC Environmental Ltd we are focussed on Asbestos Management Surveys and Asbestos Refurbishment and Demolition Surveys, because they are so critical. Managing Asbestos requires individuals to identify its presence within premises and create a plan for its management. This often requires both landlords and tenants to share the responsibility. Asbestos management usually begins with a survey to evaluate the risk, followed by actions such as removal, encapsulation or labelling, depending on the circumstances.”
The UK’s Work and Pensions Committee has set a 40-year deadline to eliminate all Asbestos from commercial buildings, aiming for a “net zero” asbestos level. However, the current pace of asbestos removal is not enough to meet this goal. This indicates that more efforts and resources are needed.
The presence of Asbestos in buildings throughout London, whether historic or modern, remains a concern. While substantial efforts are being made to inspect and manage Asbestos, these measures are needed to speed up to ensure safety and health. As London prepares for inspections regarding Asbestos, it is crucial for all stakeholders, from government entities to individual property owners to remain vigilant and take proactive steps in addressing this hidden danger.