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Written by Martin Anderson

The use of asbestos containing materials was widespread in the 20th Century. Many buildings still contain asbestos which needs to be encapsulated or removed. 

The Times & Star, a local newspaper in Workington, recently reported that Broughton Parish Council has had to spend £4,410 removing asbestos from two vacant plots on its allotment sites. A spokesman for the council said: “The council became aware of the problem around May time last year when two long – term tenants left their plots after tenancies of many years. A large amount of asbestos had been left on the plots, in buildings which it is believed were on the plots since before the transfer of land from the county council to Broughton Parish Council. The asbestos has been cleared from the empty plots prior to them being re – let to new tenants”. 

On the face of it, this seems perfectly reasonable. As soon as they became aware of the presence of asbestos, they took action to have it safely removed, presumably using licensed asbestos removal contractors.

However, the article goes on to state: ‘More asbestos is thought to be on the sites, in the form of hen runs, fencing or sheds’.  Scarily, there is then a quote from the council chairman saying: 

“We do not believe that it is the very dangerous type of asbestos but, nevertheless, we are obliged to treat it with care. Also asbestos, we understand, is not dangerous until it is broken up so the asbestos in the current allotments is not an immediate risk. We are having it removed by specialist contractors as and when an allotment is made available. However, tenants can remove asbestos from their own plots, double plastic bag and seal it and take it for free down to the Workington waste disposal site. We would welcome them doing this of their own accord.”

When she says it is not the very dangerous type of asbestos, we assume that she means it is white asbestos (chrysotile) rather than the more potent brown asbestos (amosite) or blue asbestos (crocidolite). While she may not want to cause tenants to panic, we believe such a statement is, to say the least, rather complacent. White asbestos may not be as potent as its brown or blue counterparts, but it can still be deadly. White asbestos can cause mesothelioma, which is a fatal condition.

However, the most worrying aspect is the fact that tenants are seemingly being encouraged to remove asbestos themselves. We would strongly disagree with such an approach.

Asbestos diseases can take 10 to 60 years to develop. They are incurable and often fatal. We would therefore recommend that you consult a professional and do not attempt to remove any asbestos containing materials yourself.