John McClean, Chair of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee, says we must immediately implement a coherent plan for dealing with the legacy of asbestos in schools.

The ban on the importation and use of asbestos in the UK by a Labour government back in 1999 was welcomed by those who had campaigned for it and by health and safety professionals who had to deal with the deadly substance on a daily basis.

However, the move didn’t mean that the dangers from asbestos exposure were eradicated. Instead, the nature of the exposure has changed.

Over recent decades, Britain’s industrial landscape has undergone huge changes with a reduction in heavy industrial activities, like shipbuilding, where asbestos use and exposure was commonplace. The use of asbestos in lagging for insulation in locations like industrial and building pipework has also ended. The latency period of the effects of exposure to asbestos fibres on the lungs means that large numbers of the current deaths from asbestos-related disease are due to past exposures in activities like industry. However, cases of asbestos exposure today increasingly happen in the built environment.

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