A study recently conducted by the BBC found that in London a whopping 94 percent of the hospitals contain asbestos materials, and the news outlet described the situation as “a ticking time bomb.”
According to the story, recently aired on the BBC, about 1,100 Londoners have died of asbestos-caused cancer – mesothelioma – in the last six years.
Seven of those individuals were either doctors or nurses. While that may seem like a fairly small number, the point the story makes is that these individuals were exposed on the job, which means that the thousands of medical personnel, staff, and patients that work in or are confined to the city’s hospitals are constantly at risk.
The story explains that many of the hospitals run by the National Health System were built during an era when asbestos construction materials were used regularly and, as such, asbestos can be found in a number of products in these hospitals, such as pipe insulation, tiles, and more.
Furthermore, Great Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has long maintained that the kind of asbestos used in the products – chrysotile – is safe, so little attention was given to abatement
But the deaths prove otherwise.
“White asbestos in hospitals is still a danger – there’s no safe form of asbestos,” said Ms. Isobel Lovett, an attorney who’s represented many asbestos victims. “There’s no safe level of dust to which you can be exposed. All asbestos dust, once breathed in, presents a hazard.”
“It’s very hard to imagine a killer being safe,” added Jerry Swain, acting national instructor for the Unite construction center. “Asbestos is a known killer, people are dying from it. The only safe asbestos is asbestos that’s been removed.”
“If we’re going to leave asbestos in places, we have to be aware that we are taking a conscious decision and that people will die,” he explained.
One physician, Andrew Lawson, developed mesothelioma while walking through asbestos-laden tunnels that linked two hospital buildings.
His wife, Juliet, explained that there was asbestos lagging, which was in very poor repair, in those tunnels. Andrew died in 2014, seven years after a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
There was no excuse for the negligence, Juliet maintains. During the years that her husband was exposed (late 70s, early 80s), the dangers of asbestos were already well known.
Officials now claim that the offending asbestos was finally removed sometime during the 90s, so chances are that more exposure cases will arise.
Still, the HSE has long claimed that the health of doctors, nurses, patients, and others who frequent hospitals is a top priority.
“Nationally, there are strict rules and regulations in place so that asbestos is registered and safely contained. When building or other work is carried out, experts are bought in to properly and safely dispose of it,” said an HSE spokesperson.
“Safety is and always will be our top priority. We continue to work with trusts to ensure that their estate remains a safe environment for all patients and staff.”