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Asbestos in Schools

Asbestos Campaigners Meet British Prime Minister

LONDON MAY 6, 2009: Grassroots asbestos campaigners met Prime Minister Gordon Brown for a private meeting in his House of Commons office this afternoon. On the agenda were a series of issues including: the fatal legacy left by asbestos manufacturing in Britain, the consequences of low level exposures to asbestos, the asbestos contamination of schools and the urgent need for a coordinated national research strategy for medical treatment and cures for asbestos-related diseases.

   In the run-up to the 5th anniversary of a campaign to block the controversial development of the 72 acre former Turner & Newall factory site in Rochdale, campaigner Jason Addy from Save Spodden Valley welcomed the opportunity to discuss the current situation with the PM. Having lost his grandfather to the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, Jason put the Rochdale situation into a personal context:

“Rochdale was the site of the world’s biggest asbestos textile factory. Despite a developers’ report (2004) that concluded ‘of particular note is the absence of any asbestos contamination (on this site),’ independent reports featured in a Sony Award-nominated BBC investigation confirmed that dumped asbestos up to 4 metres deep was present in Spodden Valley. Too many Rochdale families have lost loved ones to the deadly dust; future exposure to asbestos must be prevented.”

Simon Danczuk, the prospective Labour Party candidate for Rochdale, confirmed the intensity of local concern over the area’s deadly asbestos legacy.

   The Prime Minister, who represents a shipbuilding constituency, explained that he had also lost close friends and colleagues to asbestos cancer. MP John MacDougall from the neighbouring constituency of Glenrothes died of mesothelioma in 2008. During the meeting, the Prime Minister suggested involving cabinet ministers in the Rochdale controversy. Having acknowledged the threat posed by low level exposures to asbestos, the Prime Minister confirmed that further discussion on asbestos in schools will take place at a Westminster meeting on May 13. MP Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools and Learners, agreed that action was needed to ensure that local councils complied with the duty to manage asbestos contained in public buildings.

   Welcoming the opportunity to take part in the meeting with the Prime Minister, IBAS Coordinator Laurie Kazan-Allen said:

“Since the beginning of 2009, asbestos has been headline news. I reminded the PM of the stories behind the headlines: the desperation of asbestos cancer patients who are told there are no cures for their illnesses. The fact that the UK does not have a national, coordinated research strategy is inexcusable. The PM was responsive to the idea of setting up a virtual research centre.”

  • for further information, contact Laurie Kazan-Allen, the IBAS Coordinator by email: laurie@lkaz.demon.co.uk or phone: + 44 (0) 208 958 38 87/ IBAS: International Ban Asbestos Secretariat website: www.ibasecretariat.org
  • More information on British asbestos developments can be obtained from the website of the British Asbestos Newsletter: website: http://www.lkaz.demon.co.uk
  • The use of chrysotile asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999; the use of amosite and crocidolite having been banned in the 1980s. Throughout the 20th century, 6 million tons of asbestos were used in Britain. Currently, 2,000+ people die of mesothelioma (asbestos cancer) every year, a further 3,000-4,000 die of asbestos-related lung cancer and 700+ of asbestosis. A conservative estimate of the number of annual asbestos-related deaths in Britain would be 5,000.
  • The World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, the European Union, the International Commission on Occupational Health, the United Nations, the Collegium Ramazzini, groups representing global labor and many other international agencies and national governments agree that exposure to all types of asbestos is hazardous.
    • The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 100,000 asbestos deaths a year, one person every five minutes. Other estimates put the global toll much higher.



Michael Lees 4 Jan 2006