94% of London hospitals contain asbestos

Spill Response Expo blog post 1

The number of people developing mesothelioma caused by likely exposure to asbestos in London hospitals has been described as a “ticking time bomb”.

Jerry Swain, acting national instructor for Unite’s construction centre, and Isobel Lovett, a lawyer who has 17 years of experience handling asbestos cases, have called the presence of white asbestos in 94% of the capital’s hospitals (Source: BBC London) “dangerous”.

Since 2011, around 1,000 people have died from mesothelioma in London; a rare form of cancer commonly caused by asbestos exposure in the workplace.

Symptoms of mesothelioma include breathlessness, coughing, chest pain, night sweats and damage to the spinal cord in severe cases. The average survival rate for someone diagnosed with the cancer is one year.

While the Health and Safety Executive watchdog has claimed that the white asbestos used in hospitals to protect piping isn’t damaging to a person’s health, Ms Lovett says that there is “no safe level of dust to which a person can be exposed”.

All asbestos dust, once breathed in, presents a hazard,” she added. “There’s always the possibility that someone can unintentionally disturb it during their work and release the dangerous asbestos fibres.”

Mr Swain added that if the asbestos in London’s hospitals is left in place, we have to acknowledge that we’re making a “conscious decision and that people will be killed”.

A spokesperson for NHS Improvement said: “Our top priority has been, and will always be, safety. We are continually working with our trusts to make sure that their buildings are a safe environment for all patients and staff.”