A fortnight before, a High Court judge heard from an environmental campaign group that an Olympic basketball training facility planned to be built on parkland at Leyton Marshes, north London, was a post World War Two ‘landfilled’ site contaminated with lead and asbestos.
Local residents voiced their complaint over the lack of consultation and were naturally concerned over the proposed ground disturbance. According to one protestor, there was a likelihood of uncovering quantities of hazardous asbestos-containing materials mixed in with the soil, rubble and debris from landfill dating back to the peak period of UK asbestos production.
From the 1920s onwards and up until the most toxic forms ( brown amosite and blue crocidolite) were banned in the mid 1980s, asbestos was widely used as a heat insulator and fire retardant throughout the UK in construction, engineering and manufacturing. Lack of asbestos awareness, proper information and safety procedures meant countless thousands of men and women were exposed to inhaling the deadly asbestos fibre dust.
White asbestos fibres continued to be used in the production of building materials for at least ten more years until importation was stopped in 1999 and only then was it fully banned by European directive in January 2005.
Any building, commercial or residential, renovated or constructed prior to the late 1980s and early 1990s must always be suspected of being built with asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Often, the absence or later, the non-compliance with asbestos disposal regulations meant demolition waste was sent to landfill sites and can and still be found contaminating the soil, long after the landscaping over of a site to create a parkland amenity was carried out.
There can still be a significant health risk to any person who comes into contact with the soil, whether directly as a site contractor or indirectly as a member of the public by ‘secondary exposure’ due to the strong possibility of loose and disintegrating asbestos fibre particles becoming airborne.
Once inhaled, the fibres embed permanently in the lung linings, eventually causing asbestosis disease or the fatal and incurable mesothelioma cancer. Unfortunately, asbestosis symptoms lay dormant for up to 40 or more years before emerging at a late stage in the spread of the disease. Often survival rates from a confirmed diagnosis are between 4 to 12 months.
Following the two hour hearing at High Court on April 4th, the Judge, however, granted an injunction to legal representatives of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), to “restrain” campaigners from engaging in “unlawful activity” at the site until after the Games or a trial of issues in dispute or further court order.