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Asbestos claims 20 lives a year

Every week 20 tradesmen die from breathing in asbestos fibres during the course of their work, according to recent research conducted by the HSE.

The announcement comes as the HSE launched an ‘Asbestos-the hidden killer’ awareness campaign, which is aimed at young tradesmen.

Every year 4,000 people die of asbestos. In Great Britain we are in the middle of an epidemic and it is expected that asbestos deaths will peak at nearly 5,000 a year as a legacy to years gone by.

Health and Safety Commission chair Judith Hackitt said: “The problem today is that we associate it with a problem that’s been and gone because asbestos is now banned. People regard asbestos as something only a previous generation were exposed to but there is a real risk that the younger generation entering the workforce will think this does not apply to them - but it does.

“If they work on any building built or refurbished before the year 2000 it could contain asbestos.”

Supporting HSE's campaign chief executive of the British Lung Foundation Dame Helena Shovelton said: “It is alarming to see that tradesmen know so little about the damage asbestos can do to their health, especially when they are the ones most at risk.

“The British Lung Foundation is urging tradesmen to make sure they are well informed about asbestos and to follow HSE's guidance in order to protect themselves from this hidden killer.”