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Asbestos

Volume 29: debated on Thursday 28 October 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to prohibit the use of asbestos in all buildings, industrial, office and domestic.

The Health and Safety Executive has in preparation regulations to make mandatory bans which the construction industry has imposed voluntarily for some time. These bans concern the use of hazardous asbestos materials, such as sprayed insulation in buildings. I see no case for a general ban on all use of asbestos materials in buildings.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what regulations relate to the location and handling of asbestos waste tips; and what monitoring there is of the regulations and at what cost to public funds.

The location of waste disposal sites is a planning matter. All disposal sites dealing with asbestos wastes must be licensed by the waste disposal authorities under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and associated regulations. The WDAs are the metropolitan and county councils in England, and the district (or island) councils in Wales and Scotland.p The extent of monitoring is mainly a matter for the WDA; it consists of site inspections and can include the taking of water, air and waste samples. The frequency and extent of inspections and sampling depends on such factors as the type of location of a disposal site, the nature and quantities of asbestos wastes disposed of at any particular site, and the manner of disposal operation at that site.Most of the monitoring is carried out by the WDAs, but some is carried out by the regional water authorities, the Health and Safety Executive, and the environmental health authorities (district councils). Information on the cost to public funds of this monitoring is not held centrally.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding the removal of asbestos from(a)public and(b)private buildings; if he will detail any recommendations that have been made and any action that has been taken about the removal of asbestos from schools; what advice has been given to local authorities; and to what extent the removal of asbestos is monitored.

The Government's policy is based on the conclusion of the advisory committee on asbestos that the removal of asbestos materials in existing buildings is not necessary except when they are damaged or friable. Where removal is necessary the Health and Safety Executive's code of practice "Work with asbestos insulation and asbestos coating" should be followed. Asbestos in schools is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who has issued guidance in an administrative memorandum (DES 7/76, Welsh Office 5/76). There is no central record of the removal of asbestos materials from buildings.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what study he has made of the asbestos contamination levels existing in the environment, especially in schools, hospitals and other public buildings and particularly during maintenance operations.

The advisory committee on asbestos examined the information on asbestos in the environment that was available in 1979. The results of further measurements made in public buildings and schools (both when in normal use and during removal of asbestos materials) have been published in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene (Vol. 24, No. 2, 1981). Monitoring in the open air near asbestos factories and waste sites is in progress and the results will be published shortly.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make special financial provision to local authorities for the safe treatment and removal of asbestos products from schools, hospitals and other public buildings.

Local authorities should be able to carry out whatever work they consider necessary within their own resources, although they may include any capital work of this nature in their expenditure plans which they submit as a basis for annual expenditure allocations.