Report warns over 6m tonnes of asbestos in public buildings

Calls made in new report for government to create central register of asbestos in public buildings as part of measures to reduce the material's harmful affects.

Think tank Res Publica's report Don't Breathe In, warned despite asbestos being outlawed in UK construction in 1999, there are still 6m tonnes of the material spread across 1.5m public buildings.

The report detailed how asbestos remains a serious threat to public health, especially in public buildings. Some 94% of hospitals and 80% of schools contain the material. The substance remains the UK's number one occupational killer, causing more than 5,500 deaths last year.

It called for the government to establish a central register of all asbestos currently in place in public buildings across the UK, including schools, hospitals and social housing. It said the register should identify the precise location, type and condition of asbestos.

Further recommendations included the government bringing in the health and safety regime for the management of asbestos up to the highest international standards, as practised in Germany, the Netherlands and France. The report also urged the government to commission a cost-benefit analysis for the removal of all asbestos from UK public buildings, with a commitment to a timeframe for the phased removal of the material on the basis of danger and risk to public health.

There were also calls for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to assure, rather than assume buildings are safe through the requirement for periodic sensitive air monitoring using electron microscopy.

The report said: “It is now twenty years since the UK banned the manufacturing and use of all asbestos, meaning buildings constructed after 1999, when the ban came into force, no longer contain this deadly material.

“However, anything built or refurbished before this date may still contain asbestos, where it remains in an increasingly aged and deteriorating condition. The UK today remains a storehouse of asbestos. There are six million tonnes of asbestos in the UK, most of which can be found in over 1.5 million buildings across our public estate, including our hospitals and schools. This means that many people are still exposed to the potential dangers of asbestos on a daily basis.”

Source: Construction Manager

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