Asbestos risk to children
Hundreds of children in Leeds could be at risk if plans to relax tough anti-asbestos legislation get the green light, warns a leading legal expert.
Adrian Budgen, a partner with national law firm Irwin Mitchell, which has offices in Queen Street, Leeds, says Government plans will place children at an even greater risk from the dangers of asbestos than at present.
Mr Budgen, who has successfully represented over 800 victims of asbestos-related conditions in the last 16 years, was commenting on a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) consultation paper on the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations.
The changes will see textured coatings containing asbestos, such as Artex used in houses and schools, taken off the list of materials that only licensed contractors can remove.
The regulations due to come into force next April will mean any contractor will be able to remove textured coatings containing asbestos, irrespective of adequate training, supervision or insurance.
Mr Budgen said the HSE had taken advantage of the opportunity presented by new European proposals intended to increase worker protection from asbestos to relax UK laws instead.
Medical evidence obtained in previous legal cases had proved that young children were particularly at risk from asbestos because their lungs were still developing.
Children's lives at risk from asbestos
Mr Budgen said that if the current regulations are relaxed, it could open the way for unlicensed and unscrupulous contractors to take advantage of the opportunities for work, placing children's lives at risk.
He said: "No research has been done to assess the level of risk and this is another time bomb just waiting to go off. If the HSE proposals go through it may expose another generation of people to the harmful effects of asbestos and we know that children are particularly susceptible.
"Existing legislation is simply not tough enough and any relaxation has to been seen as a huge backward step. We are strongly backing the position of the unions and Asbestos Removal Contractors Association on this matter and share their alarms.
"We hope that during the consultation period, which ends in February, the HSE sees sense and reconsiders it position as a matter of priority."
An entire community in Leeds, including many children, have paid the ultimate price from exposure to asbestos. The pollution surrounding the former J W Roberts factory led to what became known as the Armley asbestos tragedy and has claimed hundreds of lives through mesothelioma, since the 1920's.
The factory in Canal Road, Armley, pumped out asbestos dust, leaving surrounding streets with a snow-like covering. Homes and a local school were regularly showered by asbestos, and youngsters innocently played in it, making asbestos "snowballs".
Although the factory closed in November 1958, it left a legacy of asbestos-related health problems among former workers, their families, and people who simply lived nearby.
The factory continues to claim victims, as mesothelioma can take up to 60 years to develop.
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