Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that has been classified as a category 1 carcinogen. Coming into contact with and inhaling this substance is extremely hazardous for humans. It has been linked with several diseases, including mesothelioma, a lethal cancer that grows on the lining of the chest. Due to its potentially fatal effects, there are absolutely no circumstances in which people should be exposed to asbestos.
Yet that is what is happening across the UK all too frequently. This is because asbestos was used extensively in the construction of buildings across the nation during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In fact, this deadly building material was only completely banned in the construction industry in this country in 1999. Because of its lightweight, yet strengthening nature, as well as its fire-resistant and insulating properties, asbestos was added to cement and building materials, which were widely used to erect structures across the UK.
This means that asbestos containing materials (ACMs) potentially continue to be present in a vast amount of the country’s buildings. Since even the slightest exposure to asbestos can cause grave illness, this situation urgently needs to be solved. Indeed, it’s estimated that asbestos-related diseases are responsible for 5,000 deaths per year in the UK.
When disturbed, asbestos fibres are released into the environment, they can be inhaled by humans, leading to devastating health consequences. With more and more buildings aging and beginning to require repairs and renovation, there is greater and greater scope for ACMs to be disturbed – making it ever more necessary to safely and responsibly deal with this issue immediately.
As we begin to undertake this crucial public safety process, it is important to focus on first removing asbestos from affected buildings where large, and often vulnerable, populations gather to work and study – places such as schools, government facilities and hospitals.
Harnessing the crucial skills and expertise needed to identify and eradicate asbestos
The only way to completely protect people from the harmful effects of exposure to asbestos is to begin to systematically eliminate this substance from all buildings where it currently exists. However, this is an extremely difficult and dangerous task, one that requires extreme precision, a wealth of expertise, very detailed planning and a high degree of skill.
At ION Environmental, we have been working to solve the UK’s asbestos contamination problem for the past 20 years. Over that time, we have gained an extraordinary breadth and depth of experience when it comes to working with this extremely perilous material. In recognition of our asbestos-removal proficiency and knowledge, we currently possess a three-year asbestos removal license from HSE, as well as a host of awards and certifications, including two ARCA Gold certificates.
Additionally, we are proud of our record of three consecutive years of holding a gold standard award in unannounced site audits – which means that, over the course of three years, every surprise audit of our sites found that our operations were flawless.
Added to our years of experience and our strong track record, there is a specific factor that makes ION Environmental ideally suited to take on a leading role in solving the UK’s asbestos contamination problem – our ability to eradicate all traces of asbestos from large, complex buildings and developments. This capability allows us to effectively, safely and quickly remove asbestos from structures, such as schools, university campuses, government facilities and hospitals – providing greater security and safety for the substantial number of people who spend many hours each day in these buildings.
The reason that we are so well-positioned to offer efficient asbestos removal solutions for these types of massive, complex structures is because of the complementary services and support that we receive from our fellow Carey Group companies.
Since we became an integral part of the Carey Group in 2011, ION Environmental has often worked closely and collaboratively with sister companies within the Carey Group– such as Scudder Demolition, Careys Civil Engineering and Careys Design Team – to deliver a full range of construction solutions on huge, multidimensional complex projects. By precisely coordinating our asbestos removal activities with the demolition, remediation and construction works of the other Carey Group companies, ION Environmental is uniquely able to ensure that we find and fully remove all ACMs from every area of buildings and sites.
Some of the significant projects that we have successfully delivered asbestos removal works on – as part of the Carey Group’s integrated offering – include Lots Road Power Station in Battersea, London, the former Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London and the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot, Hampshire.
Our proven ability to effectively eliminate asbestos from sizable buildings, in often complex circumstances stands us in good stead to help rectify the critical issue of ACM contamination in the education and healthcare spheres.
Asbestos contamination poses severe risks to students and teachers in UK schools
The incidence of asbestos in educational buildings is staggeringly high – with 86% of schools in the UK estimated to contain this lethal substance. Despite that sobering fact, authorities are not legally obligated to inform students, parents or teachers about the presence of asbestos in their educational institutions. As a result, less than half of teachers and the vast majority of students (and their parents) have no idea whether or not their school is contaminated.
As a direct result of the widespread existence of this substance in schools, more than 200 teachers have died across the country since 2001 from mesothelioma. Just as worrying, several different studies have assessed that as many as 300 to 360 former students die annually, as a result of their exposure to asbestos when they were attending school.
As intense as these numbers are, it is troubling to realise that much, if not all, of this loss of life from mesothelioma could have been prevented – simply by removing all traces of asbestos from schools. Moving forward, it’s vital that we pay attention to the threat that asbestos presents in the nation’s schools and that we take steps to rectify the situation. Yet, rather than opting to eradicate this lethal substance from educational institutions across the UK to protect the lives of today’s students and teachers, current government policy calls for leaving the asbestos in place and trying to manage it.
A recent study by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has raised the alarm about the potential ticking timebomb of asbestos contamination in school buildings and the government’s problematic position on how to deal with it. The union’s research concluded that,
Asbestos remains a killer in schools and there is simply no evidence to support the government’s case that it is safer to manage asbestos than to remove it.
Indeed, in reality, the presence of even the slightest amount of asbestos can put the lives of children and teachers at risk. Peter Middleman, a representative of the National Education Union, underlined this danger, stating,
The government seems to be satisfied with the reassurance that there is a low risk of disturbance, but one disturbance and it’s too late. A corner of a desk penetrates a wall coating or [a] drawing pin is inserted into a tile with asbestos [and it] will release deadly fibres.
As with all cases of asbestos contamination, the only way to truly protect teachers and students from asbestos exposure is to completely eradicate this deadly substance from schools using the services of a highly experienced and expert asbestos removal company, such as ION Environmental.
The crucial issue of asbestos in NHS facilities
A recent BBC investigation, published in December 2018, discovered that approximately 9 out of 10 NHS trusts administer hospitals that contain asbestos. Specifically, 198 out of 211 NHS trusts stated that asbestos existed in hospitals under their jurisdiction.
According to another study, ACMs are most likely to be found in some quite common areas in UK hospitals, such as:
- Ceiling and floor tiles
- Lagging, used as thermal insulation on pipes
The widespread existence of asbestos in UK hospitals poses significant health risks to patients and health workers alike. In a testament to the seriousness of this situation, the BBC learned that 352 claims were made against health trusts, between January 2013 and December 2017, by individuals who had developed asbestos-related diseases following exposure in NHS buildings.
The charity, Mesothelioma UK, also carried out its own research project aimed at examining the NHS asbestos situation. This study looked specifically at the effects of ACMs on hospital employees. The founder of Mesothelioma UK, Liz Darlison, signalled her alarm with the results, saying: "I've lost count of the number of people who have developed mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos in our hospitals."
In light of these disturbing findings, it’s absolutely imperative that hospitals and health facilities take immediate steps to identify whether they have dangerous asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) on their premises. They can then begin to formulate a plan to bring in experts – such as ION Environmental, who can help to assess the extent of the contamination and begin to safely remove it.
An urgent health hazard that requires immediate attention
The stark statistics about asbestos contamination in the UK’s educational and healthcare buildings tell only a part of the story. Whilst we remain unaware of the actual amount of asbestos that exists in structures across the country – including in government facilities, offices, and commercial and retail buildings – it is not a stretch to assume that this lethal material has the potential to adversely affect a substantial percentage of the population.
Once members of the public become more and more aware of the dangers of asbestos, as well as its widespread presence in the places where they spend a great deal of their time working, studying and seeking medical treatment – there will be a rising clamour to do something to solve this issue.
Highly trained and experienced companies like ION Environmental offer the best remedy to help fix this national problem.