House of Commons Hit by Asbestos Scare

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Asbestos is a carcinogen known to cause aggressive diseases including Mesothelioma and Asbestosis. Illness can lie dormant for several decades following exposure, however, as has been the case for many workers in the shipbuilding and construction industries during the 1960s and 1970s, when asbestos was so widely used.

Only in 1999 was its use banned in this country, making it a potential threat to those working in buildings constructed prior to 2000. This is why a legal requirement exists for employers to provide Asbestos Awareness training for all employees likely to come into contact with asbestos during their normal work day.

HSE Asbestos Awareness Certificate

The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing this regulation, and for protecting the health and safety of workers in the UK. HSE Asbestos Awareness courses provide the knowledge for tradespeople to act safely, leaving asbestos undisturbed should they come across it.

Further courses are available for those who actively deal with the substance, but the main purpose of Asbestos Awareness training is to help people understand the dangers ever-present within older commercial and residential buildings in the UK.

Asbestos found in the House of Commons

A substance found in the air ventilation system of the House of Commons is thought to be asbestos. What’s more, it may have been there for 15 years – since previous asbestos-related work was carried out to make the building safer.

Apart from posing a current health risk to MPs, some people in the House may have been exposed to asbestos for over a decade. The fact that asbestos dust and fibres, known to be deadly when disturbed, may have been present in an air duct adds to a general sense of concern.

Not since World War II have MPs been required to vacate the House of Commons, but they may have to move into the House of Lords as a safety precaution to avoid breathing in asbestos dust and fibres.

Previous checks had been made

The ‘ambient air’ in the House of Commons had been checked previously, with tests indicating that asbestos was not present at dangerous levels. The 15-year time delay could cause serious health concerns for many, however.

The Sunday Times also reported that brown asbestos may be present in the ducts alongside its white counterpart. The fibres in brown asbestos are long and jagged, as opposed to the curled fibres of white asbestos, making them even more deadly when breathed in.

Asbestos-related disease

Four main diseases are related to asbestos exposure:

  • Mesothelioma: a rare form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs
  • Asbestosis: scarring of the lung tissue
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer: usually develops in the cells of the air passages
  • Non-malignant pleural disease: affects the outer lining of the lungs

The Health and Safety Executive states that there could be as many cases of asbestos-related lung cancer as there are of Mesothelioma – more than 2,000 every year.