Asbestos Feared To Have Been Released In Blaze

Possible Asbestos Exposure

30.09.2009

Asbestos may have been released into the air by a factory fire in Smethwick, near Birmingham, firefighters have announced.

The blaze at a factory in the Hawthorns Trading Estate led firefighters to instruct people to stay inside their homes with the windows shut.

Attempts to prevent the spread of the fire have been scaled back after approximately 200 firemen and women were involved in attempts to control it.

There have been no casualties reported, and no-one is thought to have been trapped in the burning buildings.

Four roads around the area were shut because of the fire, with one left shut down overnight, while trains were not allowed to stop at two nearby stations.

Large plumes of smoke were reported in the area, and firefighters had to abandon some buildings when parts of them collapsed.

Iain Shoolbred, asbestos solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, commented:

"This is the second fire in recent months in the West Midlands where asbestos may have been released into the local environment. The previous incident occurred during a fire at a recycling plant in Walsall in July.

The fires and the clean up operations mounted by the local councils only remind us that asbestos is not just a problem of the past, as it is sometimes suggested. The heavy use of asbestos in the 20 century has left a legacy that we have all inherited. The Health and Safety Executive have recently run an awareness campaign directed at tradesmen like plumbers and carpenters to warn them of the dangers that asbestos still poses. There is still asbestos present in some schools and in some council houses, presenting a continuing danger to those who might inadvertently disturb it in the future. In my view, much more needs to be done to safely remove asbestos from our public buildings and to continue to raise awareness of the dangers asbestos can pose.

The blaze at a factory in the Hawthorns Trading Estate highlights the potential dangers of buildings built from asbestos close to residential homes. One fire or one accident could lead to asbestos being released into residential areas and I would call on local companies to undertake a thorough review of their buildings to identify the potential hazards caused by the use of asbestos on their sites."