Whether by intention to cut costs or a negligent lack of asbestos awareness, throughout 2011, there were continuous reports of the illegal flytipping of building waste, which included asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

Just days before Christmas, almost as if in one final defiant gesture to round off the year, some three metric tonnes of waste including, a large quantity of asbestos material found amongst discarded roof tiles, plasterboard and carpet, possibly from a garage demolition, was dumped near the A133 Colchester Road, in Great Bentley, Essex.

Any type of illegal fly-tipping can result in a Magistrates Court fine of between £5,000 and £50,000, an unlimited fine imposed by a higher court, or a prison sentence. Last year, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) announced that it would be introducing a new set of strict procedures and penalties on building / demolition companies who failed to comply with the ‘General Requirements’ of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

Despite the UK ban on asbestos use as insulation in housing and commercial construction from the 1980s onwards, the building industry knows very well that there are still many properties built with asbestos-containing materials, such as asbestos cement roofing, wallboard, sprayed and bound pipe lagging.

Buildings constructed or renovated before 2000 are allowed to contain specific asbestos products made from chrysotile ( white asbestos) considered ‘low risk’, but still a potential health hazard if the material is any way disturbed and the asbestos fibre dust released into the air.

Rigorous procedures and management planning are mandatory before the highly dangerous operation of controlled asbestos encapsulation or removal and disposal, which involves the strict containment by careful bagging and dust suppression.

Asbestos fibre dust inhaled will remain permanently in the linings of the lungs and can cause asbestosis disease or tissue cells to become cancerous, eventually causing the incurable asbestos cancer, mesothelioma up to 50 years after first exposure.

An estimated 4,000 deaths are recorded from asbestos-related disease in the UK each year and the number of mesothelioma compensation or asbestosis claim cases continue to rise. In 2008 alone, mesothelioma claimed over 2,250 deaths and in 2009, over 800 new cases of asbestosis were reported.