Asbestos is a substance that, if inhaled, can cause irreparable, and sometimes fatal, damage to the lungs and respiratory system. However, symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses can take several decades to materialise, so some victims are unaware for many years that they have even been exposed to the toxic dust. Before finally being banned in the UK in 1999, asbestos was widely used in many industries, such as construction, so is thought to have affected many thousands of workers who were exposed to it through their jobs and were provided with no protective equipment or warnings at the time. Asbestos is also thought to still be present in the structures of most homes, workplaces, schools and hospitals that were built before the late 1990s. Asbestos in buildings is considered dangerous only when damaged or disturbed, meaning that any renovation or demolition work can cause asbestos fibres to be released into the air where it can create a serious hazard.

With both historical asbestos exposure and current day dangers to contend with, it’s not a surprise that asbestos is often in the news. We have compiled some of the ways in which this dangerous substance has made headlines in May 2019.

It is thought that more than 85% of schools in the UK contain asbestos, and many of these schools have to pay for the removal of this harmful substance from their own budgets, or, in some cases, from the local authority’s coffers. It has recently been reported that hundreds of thousands of pounds so far have been spent on removing asbestos from schools in Teeside, with more work expected to be needed before the educational facilities are considered to be asbestos-free. Removing asbestos is a specialist job that can only be carried out by fully trained and certified contractors, meaning that costs can quickly mount if significant amounts of asbestos are found in a school.

A former ship worker from Hull has died from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, and his family have taken up the fight for justice on his behalf. Harry Rawlins, who passed away on his 80th birthday, believed that he was exposed to asbestos during his time working in shipyards, during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. After his mesothelioma diagnosis, his health deteriorated quickly, and the formerly active man was soon unable to carry out his normal daily activities. His family wish to seek compensation from Mr Rawlins’ former employers, whom they believe to be at fault for his exposure to asbestos and ultimately, for contributing to the timing and manner of his death.

An NHS trust has been hit with a £16,000 fine for risking the health and safety of workers after asbestos was found in nursing accommodation at The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital during renovation work. The Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospitals Trust (SaTH) did not follow the correct protocol to deal with the problem and pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches at Telford Magistrates’ Court in May 2019. A spokesperson for SaTH said that there is now a more “robust approach to asbestos management across the trust”.

A beach in Plymouth has been closed to the public indefinitely after asbestos-containing materials were discovered on the shore. Mount Batten beach has been fenced off to prevent dog walkers and other members of the public from accessing the sand. Asbestos material was first reported there in April 2019, but after a larger amount was found in May, the council made a decision to close off the area for the foreseeable future.

A granddad from Burton has died as a result of exposure to asbestos, a coroner in South Staffordshire has ruled. Horace Orton, 83, had served an apprenticeship as a ‘saw doctor’ many years previously. His job involved servicing and repairing saws that had been used to cut asbestos material and were still covered in the resulting dust when he came into contact with them.

If you, or someone close to you, has been recently diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, such as mesothelioma, you may be unsure where to go for help and advice. At Dedicated Accident Solicitors, we can offer expert legal advice on whether you are eligible to claim compensation and can also signpost you to the practical help and support available to you. Get in touch today to find out more.