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Children in UK exposed to more asbestos than in other countries

Estimated read time: 2 mins

Carrie Tennick, November 25, 2019

Children in the UK can legally be exposed to 10 times as much asbestos as those in countries like Germany, a new report has revealed.

In ‘Don’t breathe in: Bridging the asbestos safety gap’, think tank ResPublica pointed out that there also six million tonnes of asbestos found in buildings across the UK.

It also highlighted that 80% of schools and 94% of hospitals in the UK still have asbestos in their buildings. As a result, nurses and teachers are three to five times more likely to develop mesothelioma than the general public.

School children at risk

In the report, ResPublica said: “A child inhales between five and 10 cubic metres of air per day, meaning the permitted levels of airborne asbestos in the UK can expose a child to 100,000 fibres per day, compared to 10,000 fibres in Germany.”

The report’s authors also highlighted how many think the health issues caused by asbestos exposure is “a historical issue relating to traditionally hazardous occupations and industries”.

Clarifying, they said: “However, this view underestimates the dangers of chronic low-level exposure resulting from working in buildings containing asbestos. Mesothelioma can develop from exposure to only a small concentration of asbestos fibres, making secondary exposure no less a cause for concern.”

They went on to explain that it is not just those working in buildings with asbestos who are at risk. They said children in schools “could be exposed from an early age”, adding that we do not know how many people in the UK have died as a result of asbestos exposure as a school pupil.

Call for more accurate recording and measurement

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed that the UK currently sees more than 5,000 asbestos-related deaths annually. The diseases responsible for these deaths include mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

However, the HSE does not record asbestos-related deaths of people aged over 74. In its report, ResPublica said this “implies that we do not know the real scale of the problem, since the actual number of people who have died as a result of exposure to asbestos is not known”.

The think tank therefore recommended that the HSE record the number of asbestos-related deaths of people aged over 74, as well as the statistics relating to illness in school support staff, such as caretakers and secretaries. Currently, statistics are not collected on people in these professions suffering from asbestos-related illnesses.

It also called on the government to enhance the management of asbestos in the UK, bringing it up to the standard seen in countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands. According to the report, the UK’s method for measuring airborne asbestos in public buildings is 10 times less accurate than that used in those countries.

If you have developed mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related illness, you could make a claim for compensation. This could help to secure your future.

To find out more about how we can help, just give us a call, request a call back or start your claim online.