Recently, some press attention has been focused on so-called ‘asbestos hysteria’ claiming that the dangers of its presence have been greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, as asbestosis sufferers know only too well, the terrible truth is very much the opposite and the many thousands of genuine claims for asbestos compensation are not best served by negative press treatment.

Asbestos is still present in very many buildings! As late as 1976, the asbestos industry was advertising that it was present in over 3,000 products. Many of these are still present because the laws prohibiting the use of asbestos did not apply to existing products and asbestos awareness was either non-existent or deliberately withheld.

Sprayed coatings are probably the most lethal way in which asbestos can be used. It was common for many sprayed asbestos products to contain up to 85% asbestos, much of it the blue form. Between 1935 and 1971, it was used extensively in public buildings for acoustic and thermal insulation and fire protection of structural steel work. It was commonly used in system-built council housing for boiler houses and ceilings, balconies and walkways. It is not unusual to find this material to be soft, friable and therefore, in an extremely dangerous state.

In a 1985 Association of Metropolitan Authorities (AMA) survey of over 2.2 million council houses, it was estimated that 1.9 million AMA properties could contain asbestos, implying that a possible 4 million council houses could be contaminated. Moreover, metropolitan areas were likely to have proportionately more properties at risk because they have more industrialised and system built-dwellings, which relied on cost effective lightweight materials such as asbestos.

According to UNISON, the UK’s biggest public sector Trade Union, over a decade of changes including compulsory competitive tendering, local management of schools and the transfer of hospitals from health authorities to Trusts has meant as each change occurred, information has effectively been lost, if it existed at all. Budget cuts in all service sectors have added to the problems.

There are many reasons why asbestos tracking and management fails. Tenant populations change. Information may be badly presented or incomprehensible. In emergencies such as burst pipes, asbestos procedures can get overlooked. Fibre releases from children’s play, fire, vandalism or break-ins are beyond Councils’ control.

Concern over the very real dangers of the presence of asbestos should never be undermined and those individuals who have every good reason to suspect their domestic dwelling or work premises may contain asbestos products, should always seek asbestos advice from authoritative sources