The battle lines have been drawn up for quite some time now, whenever the issue of white asbestos rears its undoubtedly, contentious head! And that’s despite the many years of developing public asbestos awareness and putting much needed preventative and asbestos disposal legislation into place.

There have been several occasions when the press, media and even certain quarters of the scientific community, have voiced the opinion that the dangers of white asbestos are exaggerated. This goes against all the experience of asbestos lawyers who see a continuing stream of asbestosis sufferers or their spouses when fighting for asbestos compensation on their behalf.

There may indeed be new evidence from scientists and public health research, which may help to dispel the often repeated arguments that white asbestos is safe as long as it is undisturbed and not worked upon in anyway.

Whilst the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had estimated the risk of lung cancer from white asbestos to be between 10 and 50 times less than from the same exposure to the banned blue and brown asbestos, new evidence from the US has led to the conclusion that the previous estimate of the risk of contracting mesothelioma may need revising upwards to “between a 20th and a 100th” of blue and brown risk.

The overall view is that they are unable to commit to saying it is safe, due to the very serious uncertainty over the figures, especially at lower exposure levels. Notwithstanding of course, that the HSE actively supports the EU’s white asbestos ban.

Meanwhile, at Rotterdam’s Erasmus Medical Centre, a recent review of earlier epidemiological studies commissioned by the Dutch government, has also led to the firm conviction that white asbestos was “much more dangerous than previously thought.”

They have stated, “What we have shown is that chrysotile (white asbestos) is as dangerous as crocidolite [blue asbestos] for contracting lung cancer, and is also linked to mesothelioma”.

Once again, the view is that they “ ..don’t think there is a safe way of working with asbestos..” and therefore, “.. would support a global ban on asbestos purely because of public health risks.”

Words which are unlikely to be heeded by a number of countries, including Canada, India, China and Russia, who continue to be fully engaged with the asbestos trade and those elements of UK opinion that remain sceptical, despite constant figures for asbestos related disease.