The former Acre Mill asbestos site in Hebden Bridge may become a destination for campers and caravaners if the owners of the land have their way. The town has suffered hundreds of asbestos-related deaths due to the vast numbers of local people working at the mill, run by Cape Insulation Ltd.
Figures were released in 1976 showing just how devastating the asbestos exposure had been – a total of 12% of the 2,200 people who worked at the site had some form of asbestos-related disease. This led to an enquiry by the government into how the tragedy had been allowed to happen.
Cape Insulation Ltd was an asbestos processing company which manufactured filters for Second World War gas masks using crocidolite, or blue asbestos. They took over the Acre Mill site in 1939, and were there until 1970. They were said to be “the world’s chief producer of amosite asbestos.”
The company mined asbestos in South Africa, exporting it to Europe for widespread use as insulation, and to produce fire-retardant goods onboard ships, in homes and industry. Asbestos cement sheets, rope lagging, insulation mattresses, and asbestos cloth and yarn were also produced at Acre Mill.
Large extractor fans pumped asbestos dust and fibres into the air surrounding the site, potentially endangering the lives of all Hebden Bridge residents. Amosite, or brown asbestos, has long thin fibres that are brittle and easily inhaled. This makes it particularly dangerous as the needle-like fibres become embedded in the lining of the lungs.
Local opposition to the caravan site development
The factory at Acre Mill was finally demolished in 1979, but local residents are concerned that the ground will still be contaminated with the substance, particularly given the enormous quantities that were present during the mill’s heyday.
Liberal Democrat councillor, Janet Battye, is opposing plans for the Caravan and Camping Club to develop a small site for five caravans and ten tents. She expressed her concern by saying:
“People are still suffering the effects of the asbestos works and it’s at least insensitive to make such a use of this site.”
Asbestosis was the cause of many deaths in Hebden Bridge. This disease causes scarring of the lung tissue after long-term exposure to the substance, and results in a gradual lack of lung function. Onset of the illness is commonly between 15 and 20 years after exposure.
Online asbestos training courses
UKATA online training for asbestos awareness will help to keep you safe should you encounter the substance in your normal working day. Courses can be taken at home or in work, and at your own pace. Once you’ve completed the end-of-course quiz, an HSE asbestos certificate can be downloaded and remains valid for a year. You’ll learn about the health risks of asbestos, how to identify the substance within commercial and domestic properties, and what to do if it is uncovered.