The Government must commit to a strategy to remove all asbestos from public and commercial buildings within 40 years, MPs say today, with the risk to health only likely to increase as buildings are adapted with the move to net zero.

Danger asbestosThe Work and Pensions Select Committee said asbestos remained the biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK warning that while "extreme exposures" might be a thing of the past, the risks were likely to escalate. More than 5,000 asbestos related fatalities were recorded in 2019.

The HSE estimates that asbestos may still be present in 300,000 non-domestic buildings and in many more homes, despite long-term efforts to remove it. The retrofitting of buildings to meet net zero requirements means more materials containing asbestos will be disturbed in the coming decades.

While both the HSE and the government have said they believe it should be removed, the committee said neither had put forward a "clear and comprehensive strategy" for achieving this. It wants all asbestos removed from non-domestic buildings within 40 years, starting with the highest risk settings such as schools.

The committee chairman, Stephen Timms, said: “Asbestos is one of the great workplace tragedies of modern times and while the extreme exposures of the late twentieth century are now behind us, the risk from asbestos remains real.  The drive towards retrofitting of buildings to meet net zero aspirations means the risk of asbestos exposure will only escalate in the coming decades.  Setting a clear deadline of 40 years for the removal of asbestos from non-domestic buildings will help to focus minds.

 The clock is ticking and the Government and HSE must now come up with a strategic plan which builds the evidence on safer removal and prioritises higher risk settings such as schools. The Government must ensure that asbestos, and its removal, is managed safely and effectively.”

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Source: UK Parliament Committee -

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