The intention to avoid paying ‘landfill tax’ or a possible high removal cost are often primary motives for property owners, duty holders or building contractors to simply arrange for a cheap and easy method of the disposal of asbestos, which usually ends up in flytipping!

The illegal practice actually increased by a staggering 64 per cent in 2012, according to DEFRA (Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). In the north east of England, alone, there were more than 100 incidents of asbestos dumping recorded in the last 12 months.

It seems that despite of all the campaigning efforts of organisations such as the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to raise asbestos awareness to the potential long term health risks of breathing in the deadly fibre dust when handled, it’s a fear of paying removal costs that keeps flytipping alive.

Just at the end of 2012, two incidents of asbestos dumping took place in north Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, following previous asbestos flytipping in areas such as Ladykirk, Lamberton and Horndean.

It’s often mistakenly assumed that the danger from asbestos was consigned to history when the most toxic types began to be withdrawn from widespread industrial use as an insulator in the 1970s. However, the first ban was not introduced until 1985 and white asbestos continued to be used in building materials until its import was prohibited in 1999.

Buildings constructed or renovated before 2000 were allowed to contain specific asbestos products made from white asbestos as it was considered ‘low risk’. However, white asbestos is 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. Once inhaled, the fibres will remain permanently in the linings of the lungs and are known to cause asbestosis disease or the incurable mesothelioma asbestos cancer up to 50 years after first exposure.

Property owners, landlords and duty holders are likely to not want a discovery of asbestos to lead to local publicity and possible legal or financial consequences from former/ current employees, tenant occupiers, etc. However, any individual caught transferring bulky waste without a Waste Management Licence will incur a Fixed Penalty Notice of £300.

It is also an offence to store controlled waste without a similar licence with penalties of up to £50,000 and a prison sentence of up to 12 months being imposed at a Magistrates Court or a prison term of up to five years and a fine at Crown Court.

Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act directly places businesses under a ‘Duty of Care’ to manage their waste in a proper and legal manner. Wherever or whenever it is suspected that asbestos material has been uncovered, a full asbestos inspection must be carried out, the area sealed – with accompanying warning signs – and the entire removal process placed under the control and managed by fully authorised, legal asbestos disposal contractors.

More than 1.8 million people are still being exposed to asbestos each year and at least 2,000 cases of confirmed mesothelioma diagnosed.