Palace of Westminster Asbestos Problem Ignored

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 General News
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LONDON, June 16 Clinica - the world's leading newsservice for the medical technology industry - has learned that staff andvisitors to London's Houses of Parliament have been at risk of exposure tohigh levels of asbestos contamination for significant periods during the lastthree years. This news comes despite warnings from experts hired to monitorthe situation as well as Parliamentary assurances that the materialdiscovered in 2005 was safely contained.

In addition, the news casts serious doubt on whether regulationsintroduced three decades ago to control asbestos contamination are working toeliminate risk of exposure to this extremely dangerous carcinogen.

Potential mass exposure has serious healthcare implications including theurgent need to screen all those who may have been exposed - particularlygiven the important benefits derived from early diagnosis of asbestosis andmesothelioma (cancers of the lungs and digestive tract).

An asbestos survey of the Palace of Westminster was conducted as far backas 2005, identifying more than 200 contaminated sites. Early last year, theHouse of Lords was told that more than 1000 air tests had been carried outand that 40 sites were deemed negative for asbestos risk, but no mention wasmade of the remaining 160 sites.

According to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, if asbestos is ingood condition, it may be safely left in place as long as its condition ismonitored and steps are taken to ensure that it is not disturbed.

Contrary to assurances otherwise, Clinica has learned that a number ofeasily accessible sites within the Houses of Parliament were not made safeduring a period of at least 11 months during 2006-7. These included a kitchencupboard that was wedged shut with a spoon and other cupboards that wereroutinely disturbed by cleaners and Palace staff.

Experts had estimated that the incidence of asbestos-related diseaseswould peak within the next decade and then tail off, but ongoing exposure toasbestos fibres means that the problem will continue to grow unchecked.

"The healthcare diagnostics industry is racing to develop technologiesfor the early detection of cancer and other asbestos related lung disease,but the implications of public health failures such as this are huge," saysBernard Murphy, Clinica Deputy Editor.

Some 1800 new cases of asbestosis or related disease are diagnosedannually in England alone and UK deaths are predicted to total 30,000 by 2020.

Notes to Editors:

Clinica is the world's leading medical technology industry news service,and has been reporting on industry developments for more than 27 years fromits London headquarters and offices around the world.

SOURCE Clinica

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