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Asbestos diseases remain a serious threat to public health

Around six million tonnes of asbestos remain in 1.5 million buildings in the UK, according to a new report from ResPublica.  Although the use and manufacturing of asbestos was banned over 20 years ago any building constructed before this period may still contain asbestos.

Asbestos fibre

It is estimated that 80% of schools and a significant amount of university and hospital buildings still have an asbestos problem. Significant amounts of asbestos also remain in privately owned buildings, including offices, factories and domestic premises. People are still at risk daily from asbestos exposure, including construction workers, teachers and nurses, even though asbestos was banned in the last century.

Over 5,500 people lost their lives to asbestos related diseases last year.

this is more than the number of people killed on the road.

Around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure

However, asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It can be present today in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000.

When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. 

When these fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases. These include:

Mesothelioma: A cancer which affects the lining of the lungs and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract. It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.

The report Don’t breathe in: bridging the asbestos safety gap calls for a register of all asbestos currently in place in public and government buildings across the UK