A British politician says the country should stand behind a new European Parliament report calling for the removal of asbestos from all public buildings by 2028.
Asbestos is the number one cause of mesothelioma and Britain has the highest mesothelioma rate in the world, with a death occurring about every five hours. An estimated 4,000 British people die of mesothelioma each year, a full 1,000 more than are typically seen in the U.S. At greatest risk are the many people who have worked with or around asbestos in construction and various industrial jobs. But Britain’s high number of quickly-built, inexpensive, post-WWII era buildings – many of which are now crumbling – has also been blamed for the high mesothelioma rate.
In a speech reported in the Derby Telegraph, East Midlands MEP Glenis Willmott says Britain should commit to removing asbestos from all buildings that are open to the public. The move is also supported by asbestos awareness groups like the Derbyshire Action Support Team, which reports an increasing number of contacts from people exposed to asbestos in schools, hospitals and other public buildings.
“You may not think of education as a dangerous occupation but 128 school teachers died from the asbestos-related lung cancer mesothelioma between 2002 and 2010, according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive,” Willmott says. The Health and Safety Executive is the British equivalent of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). According to Willmott, the European Parliament proposal was opposed by only 51 of 754 MEPs.
Highlights of the EP plan to reduce mesothelioma risk include:
– Screen all public buildings for asbestos-containing materials, register them, and prepare plans to manage the risk they present.
– Effectively monitor asbestos in workplaces and the environment, such as landfills and drinking water supplied through asbestos-cement pipes
– Qualify and properly train all asbestos abatement teams, asbestos inspectors, and occupational physicians who work with mesothelioma patients
– Develop plans for the removal of asbestos from public buildings
– Recognize mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases and set up systems for fairly compensating victims and families
– Support asbestos victims’ groups
– Establish national laws that would ban the production or use of asbestos
Worldwide, as many as 90,000 mesothelioma deaths are attributed to asbestos each year. More than 35,000 people died of mesothelioma in the UK between 1997 and 2007. The country recently enacted a law to help compensate mesothelioma patients who cannot trace the source of their asbestos exposure.
“Urgent action needed to stop asbestos death toll”, May 6, 2013, Derby Telegraph online.
European Parliament Report, “On asbestos related occupational health threats and prospects for abolishing all existing asbestos”, January 2013.