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Asbestos

Volume 932: debated on Tuesday 24 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the safety limits adopted by his Department in connection with blue and white asbestos installed in public housing units; and what is his policy regarding removal of asbestos from such buildings.

The principal hazard associated with asbestos comes from the inhalation of dust. There are fixed hygiene standards governing the exposure to airborne asbestos dust of those who work with the material. There is no comparable control for the general public. The Health and Safety Commission's Advisory Committee on Asbestos has been asked to recommend whether any further protection is required and we shall consider its recommendations very carefully. The committee issued the following advice about asbestos in existing buildings in its interim statement of January this year:

"Present evidence suggests that dangers from asbestos in buildings are likely to arise only when products containing asbestos are damaged, either accidentally or during maintenance or repair, and the asbestos fibres are released and dispersed in the air. Where friable materials, e.g., sprayed asbestos insulation, have become or could become damaged, they should be either removed or protected by a suitable coating or covering. The disadvantage of the second solution is that the problem can recur if the coating or covering becomes damaged or deteriorates. On the other hand, during the period of removal of asbestos materials incorporated in buildings, dust levels will usually be generated higher than those that will occur if the asbestos materials are left undisturbed, so in many cases the second solution will be preferable. The balance of advantage will vary from building to building".