Palace Asbestos Danger Highlighted

Asbestos Danger at Houses of Parliament

23.06.2008

Staff and visitors to the Houses of Parliament have been at risk of exposure to high levels of asbestos contamination over the past three years, it has emerged.

The news came from medical technology news service Clinica, which said that Parliament had given assurances that contaminated material discovered in 2005 was safely contained. However, the investigation by Clinica revealed that a number of sites within the Houses of Parliament identified as being contaminated were not made safe during a period of at least 11 months during 2006-7.

It said the news cast serious doubt on whether regulations introduced three decades ago to control asbestos contamination are working to eliminate risk of exposure to the dangerous carcinogen. The 2005 asbestos survey of the Palace of Westminster identified more than 200 contaminated sites.

Early last year, the House of Lords was told that more than 1,000 air tests had been carried out and that 40 sites were deemed negative for asbestos risk, but no mention was made of the remaining 160 sites, Clinica revealed. "The implications of public health failures such as this are huge," its deputy editor, Bernard Murphy, said.

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Adrian Budgen from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "Unfortunately, no one who has been exposed to asbestos, in unprotected conditions, is immune. We are seeing an increasing number of professional people who have been affected by asbestos-related disease, notably mesothelioma, including nurses, doctors, dentists, hospital managers, surveyors, architects, teachers and college lecturers. All have been exposed in a secondary way, most often as bystanders. Mesothelioma is no longer a blue collar worker's disease; it is a disease of the person on the street."