A refurbishment at London department store Selfridges led to the exposure of two workers to asbestos, it has been reported.
According to The Independent, the incident happened in May 2007 when staff changing rooms in the basement of the shop were being refitted by a sub-contractor.
A safety complaint was later submitted to Westminster City Council. A council spokesman told The Independent: "We received a complaint about works carried out at Selfridges on 23 May 2007, when contractors were exposed to asbestos while removing pipe lagging.
"Concerned by what we heard, we arranged to meet with Selfridges to discuss shortfalls in the way they surveyed and managed asbestos removal and as a result, the store implemented a comprehensive database system for dealing with asbestos.
"They are still using this system and our environmental health team is happy with it."
Selfridges said a survey had been carried out in the area in which the two men were working that "did highlight asbestos in the identified area". However, it added that the workmen had not followed the survey, which led to their unexpected discovery of the asbestos.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to the incurable cancer mesothelioma and other potentially fatal asbestos-related diseases.
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Ian Bailey, a partner in the Leeds office of national law firm Irwin Mitchell, who represents many individuals diagnosed with terminal asbestos disease said: "This is a reminder, if anyone needed one, that asbestos is sadly still very much a current issue and something which is likely to be with us for many years to come. Though many see asbestos as a problem from years ago, the reality is that today many people are dying of asbestos diseases now. Even the Health and Safety Executive conservatively put the number of annual asbestos-related deaths at 4,000. The reality is that the number is likely to be much higher.
"Asbestos is still present in many commercial and public buildings today and may well affect the lives of people in the future from unnecessary and preventable exposure to the dust."