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DIY dangers highlighted in Asbestos Awareness Week

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Spring has sprung and we’re well and truly into DIY season, but with this comes the danger of disturbing asbestos as we’re making improvements to our home.  The beginning of April saw Global Asbestos Awareness Week and here Dan Thompson, Personal Injury Partner, explains how asbestos is impacting our lives, and the measures you need to take to remove it safely.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to the mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the lining around the lungs.  Currently the UK has the highest recorded mesothelioma levels in the world.  In March this year Work and Pension’s Minister, Lord Freud, estimated that 53,000 people will die from mesothelioma in Great Britain in the next 25 years, based on the latest projections by the Health and Safety Executive.  “This is a staggering figure to face, and precaution and action needs to be taken to keep this number to a minimum,” begins Dan.

“From the 1950’s asbestos was a popular building material in homes in the UK, being used in cement, wallboard, floor tiles, roofing felt and the insulation panels in storage heaters,” explains Dan.  “It was only in 1999 that use of asbestos was banned, but many of us are still living with asbestos in our homes, in fact the British Lung Foundation estimates that 14 millions homes in the UK could contain asbestos.  This figure equates to more than half our homes, so it is a very real risk we face today.”

Asbestos doesn’t cause harm when it is intact, only becoming hazardous when it is disturbed or damaged.  “If you are tackling those DIY tasks this spring and you discover asbestos in your home, ensure you contact your local council or a tradesperson immediately,” continues Dan.  “If asbestos is combined with other materials it can be difficult to identify, but if you are in any doubt then you can order an asbestos survey to be completed.”

Our homes are not the only place that asbestos can be hiding, as factories, shipyards, office buildings and even schools are also known to have been built with asbestos.  Last month ‘The Management of Asbestos in Schools’ review was published which explains in detail what needs to be done to tackle the problem of asbestos in our schools.  This included requests for funding for the appropriate removal of asbestos and enhanced accountability for duty holders.

“To put the importance of this review into context, campaign group Asbestos in Schools (Ais) recently produced figures that show 158 teachers have died in the last ten years and 291 have died since 1980 from mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos at their school.  Not only this but the group also indicate that 200-300 people could die each year from asbestos exposure as a child at school in the 60’s and 70’s.   Combine the two, and over a 20 year period between 4,000 and 6,000 people could die as a result of asbestos in our schools.

“It’s crucial looking at these figures that people are not only aware of where asbestos is and the proper management of that once it is found, but also to know where to turn if you are diagnosed with mesothelioma and need financial support if you are no longer able to work,” concludes Dan.

“There are a number of state benefits that can be claimed such as Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) or Disability Living Allowance, but you could also claim compensation from your employer if the exposure occurred at your place of work.  We have seen many families affected by this in the Hampshire area due to the heavy use of asbestos in the shipping industry, and it’s important that those living with mesothelioma and their families aren’t left to struggle financially, as well as emotionally.”

To find out more about exposure to asbestos and how you can claim compensation, contact Dan or the Injury team on 0800 91 92 30 or visit their section of the website here.


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.