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MPs back TUC calls for asbestos removal from public buildings

A CROSS-PARTY group of MPs has backed a TUC call for all asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings. 

The work and pensions select committee, which cited the union confederation’s demand for action in its latest report, published on Thursday, said that a 40-year deadline should be set for the eradication of all traces of the toxic material. 

The TUC welcomed the report but argued that the deadline was not ambitious enough.

It stressed that a legal duty to safely remove asbestos within a clear timetable was the only way to protect future generations from the “same deadly epidemic of asbestos-related diseases that we suffer today.”

The substance, widely used for insulation until the 1980s, is classed as carcinogenic, meaning that it can cause cancer and other serious lung conditions when fibres are inhaled. 

Asbestos remains Britain’s biggest cause of work-related deaths, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), with 5,000 recorded in 2019.

This country also has the highest global rates of mesothelioma, a type of cancer linked to exposure to the material. 

Despite its use in new builds being prohibited since 1999, asbestos is still found in about 300,000 non-domestic buildings, the HSE estimates. 

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “More than 22 years after the use of asbestos was banned, hundreds of thousands of workers are still put at risk of exposure every day.

“A 40-year deadline isn’t ambitious enough. Ministers must commit to removing all asbestos to keep future generations safe.”

The MPs’ report, which also urges more funding for the HSE to support asbestos-removal projects, predicts that the likely increase in the retrofitting of buildings to meet net-zero carbon ambitions in the coming decades will result in more deadly fibres being disturbed. 

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