Councils failing to protect local residents from exposure to asbestos

January 15, 2009 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP - Putting Rochdale FIRST!Information released to Paul Rowen MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed a worrying shortage of staff employed by Councils to monitor the safety of asbestos in Public Buildings.

The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that:

The majority of Councils do not employ any individuals to monitor the safety of asbestos in public buildings full time.

Despite the introduction of the Control of Asbestos Regulations two years ago in 2006 many Councils have not surveyed all of their properties to check for asbestos. Such properties are used by the public on a daily basis and include schools, leisure centres and council housing.

Mr Rowen commented: "Council's have had two years to conduct surveys and ensure that local people are protected from the potentially fatal effects of asbestos exposure."

"It is inexcusable that some Councils have not taken their obligations seriously, leading to potentially many people being at risk of a dangerous, dehabilitating and ultimately often fatal disease."

"However, I am pleased to note that Rochdale Council is taking its responsibilities seriously, having surveyed all buildings and regularly re-inspecting materials; supported by an excellent, fully qualified staff. Other councils should follow this example."

Jason Addy, co-ordinator, Save Spodden Valley campaign said: "We welcome our MP Paul Rowen's work to investigate this important matter. Lack of enforcement and regulation of existing laws to protect people from the deadly effects of asbestos is an issue that the Save Spodden Valley campaign has been raising for some time. Paul has spoken about this in Parliament and we welcome future progress.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has acknowledged the fact that at least 4000 people die in Britain each year from asbestos disease. This trend continues to rise as a result of asbestos exposures from the past 5 decades. The only way to stop future deaths is effective prevention from exposure from significant amounts of asbestos. Millions of asbestos fibrils can balance on a pin head. The deadly fibres are invisible to the naked eye. That is one reason why asbestos cancer has been called a 'hidden killer'. Public safety must be paramount."