A call for a new asbestos eradication law requiring the safe, planned removal of all the asbestos that still remains in place was made by Unite at a conference in London today (July 3) to mark Mesothelioma Action Day.
“Sixteen years after asbestos was banned in the UK, exposure to asbestos, which causes the incurable disease mesothelioma, remains ‘an ever present danger’,” Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said at the conference.
White doves in memory of those that have died from mesothelioma were released outside Farringdon tube near the Crossrail site.
Already nearly 13,500 members of Unite, who believe they have been exposed to asbestos, have joined the union’s asbestos register as part of the campaign to raise awareness about the silent killer.
“There is no room for complacency by government and companies about the threat from asbestos,” Cartmail told the delegates.
“Past exposure to asbestos as a result of corporate negligence kills around 5,000 people a year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The true figure is likely to be much higher, and, we believe, is on the rise.
“In the UK alone, we have already witnessed the tragedy of 60,000 deaths from mesothelioma and a further 90,000 people are expected to die from the effects of past asbestos exposure,” she added.
“We need a new asbestos eradication law requiring the safe, planned removal of all the asbestos that still remains in place across Britain – including a register of all properties which contain asbestos.
“This must be backed by an inspection and enforcement programme by health and safety bodies. such as the HSE, which must be properly resourced by the government.
“Asbestos use was finally banned from the UK in 1999, but is still in many buildings built or refurbished before 2000 and still presents a danger to workers in many workplaces – at least 500,000 non-domestic premises and probably around a million domestic premises,” Cartmail went on to say.
“Construction workers and maintenance workers, such as electricians, are the most at risk. But so are workers in schools, factories, hospitals, public buildings and offices, if asbestos is present and those working in domestic premises. Children risk being exposed in schools.
“The only way to remove the danger and protect future generations is to eradicate asbestos from all workplaces.”
Unite Legal Services provides free, specialist legal advice and support to members and their families who have suffered the devastating effects of asbestos disease.