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Volume 450: debated on Wednesday 11 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will bring forward proposals to establish regulatory criteria for the levels of asbestos that may exist in soil; what response he has made to the Atkins report on Spodden Valley asbestos contamination; and if he will make a statement. (89851)

Where land contamination is being considered under the Town and Country Planning regime, it is recommended that guidance from the former Interdepartmental Committee on the Redevelopment of Contaminated Land and from the Health and Safety Executive, should be taken into account. Appropriate health protection professionals in local authorities, the Health Protection Agency, the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive may also be consulted regarding the assessment of potential risks to human health from asbestos exposure. I understand this has been the case at Spodden Valley.

The Environment Agency has made asbestos a priority substance for review as part of its work on developing technical guidance for assessing risks to human health from land contamination. It is working with the Health Protection Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Health and Safety Laboratory to further understand the toxicology and behaviour of asbestos in soils. This work will help in developing a toxicological report in the Contaminated Land Exposure Assessment series, and more detailed qualitative risk assessment guidance. This material will support decision-making under part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (“Contaminated Land”), and in connection with planning applications on land affected by asbestos contamination, both of which entail risk assessment.

Reports were commissioned from Atkins by the local authority in connection with their decision on the planning application. They were not intended for submission to my Department, but copies have been provided to the agencies working with the council on this issue.