Charity warns asbestos-related cancers are a ‘public health disaster’
A charity has warned that asbestos-related cancers are a “public health disaster”, after a BBC survey revealed nine out of 10 NHS trusts say they have buildings that contain the deadly substance.
The BBC sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all 243 NHS Trusts in England, and of the 211 that responded, 198 said they ran hospitals which contained asbestos. Speaking to SHP Online, Liz Darlison, Head of Services at the charity Mesothelioma UK said asbestos-related cancers are a “public health disaster”.
“We’ve seen patients exposed in an increasing number of locations including hospitals, schools, factories, dockyards, the armed forces and many more,” said Ms Darlison.
“Tragically, the number of incidences are rising and it’s imperative that we, as healthcare professionals, continue to work with employers, governments and councils, support groups and all responsible parties to do all that we can to protect future generations against the dangers of asbestos and to find ways to better treat and care for those already affected.”
Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive in November show there were 2,595 Mesothelioma deaths in 2016, with a similar number of lung cancer deaths linked to past exposures to asbestos.
The figures also revealed there have been 20,000 new cases of breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work each year on average over the last three years, according to self-reported estimates from the Labour Force Survey.
Responding to the BBC survey, an NHS Improvement spokesperson said: “In common with buildings across the country, many parts of the NHS estate date from an era when asbestos was widely used. Asbestos is considered safe if it is undisturbed.
“Nationally, there are strict rules and regulations in place so that asbestos is registered and safely contained. When building or other work is carried out, experts are bought in to safely dispose of it.
“We will continue to work with trusts to ensure their estates are a safe environment for patients and staff.”
Asbestos in schools
Last month, the Department for Education (DfE) reopened its asbestos management assurance process last week, which asks asks schools to declare whether or not they are compliant with their legal duty to manage asbestos on their sites. In a written answer to Parliament last week, the education minister Nick Gibb admitted that the final results from the survey will not be published until Spring next year. He added 17,000 state-funded schools have so responded to the survey so far, and 68% of those have been deemed to be compliant with their legal duties.
Johnson & Johnson
Earlier this week Johnson & Johnson hit back have being accused of knowing about asbestos in their talcum powder for decades.
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