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Even the Royals aren’t exempt: Asbestos in famous UK buildings
Posted by David Cant on October 23, 2012

Asbestos in UK Buildings

For many years, asbestos was been installed into buildings all throughout the United Kingdom. This fiber mineral, which acts as an insulator and fire-retardant, can be found in factories, chemical and power plants, commercial buildings, homes, and even prominent UK buildings like Buckingham Palace and the University of Cambridge.

Even though it is known for its fiber strength and heat resistant properties, asbestos is a highly toxic substance. When asbestos containing materials are agitated or damaged, microscopic particles which are released into the air can be inhaled and cause significant health problems.

When there is a build-up of fibers in the lungs, a person is more susceptible to scarring and inflammation of the lungs. This can lead to respiratory problems and more grave diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Despite scientific findings in the 1920s and 1930s that revealed that the substance was harmful, many contractors continued to use it. During the 1970s, as more people gained exposure to asbestos, the number of cases of mesothelioma and lung conditions dramatically increased. Today, it accounts for nearly the greatest number of work-related deaths – nearly 4,500 every year.

Although laws have since been implemented banning its use, the harmful material remains omnipresent. Citizens who work in buildings still containing it are at risk for exposure and for developing health complications.

Just last year, a 20 year process began to remove asbestos from Buckingham Palace. The multi-million pound project requires the removal of asbestos containing materials to prevent the Royals and courtiers from developing mesothelioma. Asbestos even had to be removed from Kensington Palace as Prince William and Kate prepared to move in.

In August, parts of the House of Parliament were closed off because of the potential exposure to asbestos caused by a fire in the House of Commons. Before the fire even erupted, officials were considering closing its doors for up to five years for renovations and the removal of all the asbestos.

But, what about all the other buildings that are tainted by the harsh fibers? What about the citizens who work in those buildings and are exposed to the deadly substance on a daily basis? While the government can afford to take preventative measures, others may not be so cautious in protecting their employees.

In 2008, Kings College, Cambridge was fined for violating asbestos regulations. An investigation led by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that the college allowed painters to work on contaminated materials without taking the necessary precautions.

Cambridge University had to pay compensation at the beginning of 2012 to one of its carpenters who developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos at the University.

There are tons of buildings and construction materials throughout the UK that are made of asbestos fibers. It’s all too common for employers to be negligent of proper asbestos removal and put their employees at risk. Although nothing can make up for the terminal illness one develops, it can be beneficial to contact a lawyer of mesothelioma so that compensation can be awarded.


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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This post has been filed in: asbestos management

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