The ban on the use and import of asbestos reflected the government finally acknowledging the real dangers of asbestos.

However, despite being banned in 1999, the toxic substance continues to affect people’s lives today. Thousands of people suffer serious illnesses and have lost their lives because they were exposed to asbestos where they lived, worked or where they played a few decades ago. Worse still, asbestos remains in public buildings, schools, hospitals, factories, offices and homes that were built before the ban was implemented, which means the health risk posed by asbestos is as real today as it was when the substance was first put into buildings now containing it.

How much of an issue is asbestos in the UK?

To mark the anniversary of the asbestos ban and to remind everyone of the continued dangers of asbestos, we asked representatives from the support groups we work closely with, and our specialist solicitors, to share their views on the upcoming anniversary and how much of an issue asbestos still is in the UK today. Read on to find out what they had to say.

Comments from asbestos support groups

“Although there are no new imports and uses of asbestos here, there are still thousands of tonnes present in our national infrastructure. We should also take this as an opportunity to remind people why this ban is vitally important. In these times of political instability, the repeal of the asbestos ban is not beyond the realms of possibility.” Andy Turner, project coordinator at Sheffield and Rotherham Asbestos Group (SARAG).

“Despite the ban, asbestos remains in our schools and public buildings. Thousands of people are still dying of a disease which should be, and is, preventable.”

Joanne Gordon, lead coordinator at DAST and Chair of the National Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forums.

“The asbestos ban 20 years ago was a monumental hurdle to overcome. My colleagues and I continue to care for those affected by mesothelioma, however, we must continue to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos not just in the UK, but globally.” Simon Bolton, a nurse specialist at Mesothelioma UK and founder of Mesothelioma Support Yorkshire.

Comments from our specialist asbestos team

“Despite being banned 20 years ago; we are still getting instances reported to us every week of exposures that are still happening. This is simply unacceptable in a safety-conscious society. More needs to be done to raise awareness of asbestos in younger generations of workers, to prevent any more entirely preventable diagnoses of asbestos-related diseases in the future.” Helen Tomlin, specialist asbestos solicitor based at Thompsons’ Leeds office.

“Despite being banned in 1999, asbestos-related diseases account for around 5,000 deaths each year. Unless asbestos is properly managed, it is a depressing reality that the death toll from asbestos is not going to decline any time soon.”

Neil Baines, a specialist asbestos solicitor based at Thompsons’ Nottingham office.

“Asbestos was finally banned 20 years ago, but we continue to support and advise clients and their families who are dealing with the consequences of asbestos exposure now. We are proud to help ensure that justice is achieved and that people with these conditions are properly supported.” Nicholas Seymour, senior solicitor based at Thompsons' Bristol office.  

Raising awareness of the dangers of asbestos

At Thompsons, we have seen first-hand how much of an issue asbestos still is in the UK. We have supported thousands of workers and families who have been affected or have lost a loved one due to an asbestos-related disease, to make a compensation claim, and to provide them with access to relevant support groups who can offer specialist advice, information and treatment.

As well as supporting claimants through the litigation process and outing insurance companies and employers who are responsible, we’re raising awareness of the dangers of asbestos by giving a voice to those who continue to suffer. Through our Past, but Present campaign, we’re ensuring their stories are heard, and that everyone is aware of the dangers of asbestos by continuing to talk about the devastating effects it has on people’s lives today.

Learn more about the campaign by clicking on the link below.