Inadequate asbestos regulation

A new report has highlighted inadequate asbestos regulation in Britain which it says can result in a child being legally exposed to 10 times as much of the toxic material than children in other countries.

The report, from the independent think-tank ResPublica, calls for standards to be brought up to levels in the strictest European countries.

The report criticises the regulatory regime in the UK for allowing schoolchildren to inhale levels of airborne asbestos so much higher than are accepted elsewhere.

It argued that the technology used to measure airborne asbestos fibres in the UK is far less accurate than the techniques used in other countries.

The report says: “A child inhales between five and 10 cubic metres of air per day, meaning the permitted levels of airborne asbestos in the UK can expose a child to 100,000 fibres per day, compared with 10,000 fibres in Germany.”

ResPublica is recommending that the UK government bring requirements for the management of asbestos up to the highest international standards, with Germany and France among the countries quoted as displaying best practice.

The report also argues for the creation of a central register of all asbestos in public buildings across the UK – which should identify precise location, type and condition – and calls on the government to commission a cost-benefit analysis of the removal of all asbestos from them.

Regulations in the UK state that asbestos should be maintained in situ rather than removed, provided it is in a “good condition and well protected either by its position or physical protection”, but this approach has been criticised by unions for putting people at risk.

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