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Friday, 11 March 2011

Friday, 11 March 2011

Asbestos in Power Stations, Steelworks and Factories

Asbestos was widely used in power stations, steelworks and factories. Since the 1950s many people thought that nuclear power stations were a terrible threat to national safety whereas in fact a more immediate danger was the asbestos used in their construction.

In Yorkshire hundreds of workers who helped build some of the largest power stations in the UK are at risk from developing asbestos related disease and many have already died. Asbestos is responsible for half the UK workplace fatalities. By 2050 there will have been an estimated 90,000 deaths.

Asbestos was commonly used as an insulating material for pipes during the construction of power stations such as Ferrybridge, Eggborough, Drax, Aberthaw, Didcot and Battersea.

Construction workers typically had access to masks but the environment was hot and sticky and the masks would not work and many people simply didn’t use them. There was no adequate information available about the risks workers ran by coming into contact with asbestos dust. The speed with which power stations were constructed in the post war period was such that workers from different trades worked along side one another and many have commented that the air was thick with asbestos dust which was like snow flakes and would stick to their skin, hair and clothes and that they could smell and taste it in the air.

Asbestos is now banned and most asbestos has been removed from power stations. However the ban only came into full force in the UK in the year 2000 and the asbestos legacy is still with us.

According to “Natural Resources Canada” which is sponsored by the asbestos mining industry, chrysotile asbestos is not as dangerous as had previously been thought to be the case. They published a fact sheet which states “Current knowledge and modern technology can successfully control the potential for health and environmental harm posed by chrysotile”. Canada continues to put pressure on countries and the United Nations to avoid blanket asbestos bans. Asbestos cannot be sold in Canada but it is able to exported.

The World Health Organisation has a different view and continues to press for an international ban on asbestos. The International Journal of Occupational Health recently published wide ranging research collating studies over many years; the findings are incontrovertible. All forms of asbestos cause asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer and asbestos - including chrysotile - has been implicated in other forms of cancers including laryngeal and ovarian cancer. There are safe alternatives to asbestos, and there can be no justification for continuing to put lives at risk.

If you think that any of these issues have affected you or your family please call us on 0808 129 3320 for friendly legal advice.

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