A recent report from the UK Work and Pensions Committee highlights how despite being banned more than two decades ago, asbestos persists as the single greatest cause of work-related fatalities in the UK.
The report recommended a deadline should now be set for the removal of asbestos from non-domestic buildings within 40 years. A new strategic plan should focus on the highest risk asbestos first and the highest risk settings including schools.
There were more than 5,000 deaths in the UK in 2019, including from cancers such as mesothelioma.
Many of these deaths will relate to exposures from 35 or more years ago. The available evidence indicates that cumulative exposures are much lower now for younger age groups, but more data is needed to understand the current picture.
With asbestos still in around 300,000 non-domestic buildings in the UK and a likely dramatic increase in disturbance from net zero retrofitting, the Committee says that reliance on the current asbestos regulations will not be good enough. It concludes that a cross-government and ‘system-wide’ strategy for the long-term removal of asbestos is needed.
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