A look at Asbestos and how it is in so many buildings until it was found to be extremely dangerous and how it is proving to be costly to get rid of.

Asbestos removal has been an expensive task undertaken by local authorities and private property developers since the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, was established. The annual bill for asbestos removal is unknown because the price is totalled with other building or remedial work on local authority buildings and there are no requirements for independent builders to report their earnings or bills for asbestos removal. There have been high profiled cases, such as the Buckingham Palace asbestos removal initiative, which many expect to run into the millions.

Why the High Cost?

People who remove asbestos need training on the dangers of the material and they need to know the correct methods for disposal.

There is also an element of risk because asbestos causes damage when someone inhales asbestos dust particles and the particles settle in the lungs killing off any immune system cells that attack. The correct breathing equipment is an absolute necessity and these factors all put together make asbestos removal a much more expensive project than a simple demolition job. Inspections are also required, usually before removing asbestos, but sometimes afterwards, to ensure nothing of the material remains to cause damage in the future.

Non-Construction Costs

The costs are still rising for building projects that were not tackled properly in the past and this puts a strain on the NHS and Department for Work and Pensions because they are footing the bill for the mistakes made by others years ago. The person affected also suffers great loss, discomfort and are often feel bitter towards former employers, especially if employers ignored the risk and did not follow correct procedures for asbestos removal.

Recovering the Cost

There have been recent calls to recover the cost of treating asbestos victims who suffer from mesothelioma, most notably from a Welsh Assembly Minister, Mick Antoniw, who put forward a bill that would allow the Welsh government to recover some £2m spent every year treating mesothelioma patients in Welsh hospitals. He hopes builders and insurers will foot the bill for their employees and customers and if the Assembly Government passes the bill, it could become law.

Government statistics estimate 4,500 people die from exposure to asbestos every year in the UK because they develop asbestos related diseases.

The damage to lungs could be a result of inhalation decades before because problems take a long time to manifest in many people, but if the Welsh Assembly passes the bill, the rest of the UK will probably follow suit.

Lack of Warning

The majority of people who die from asbestos related diseases, suffered because they wore no masks and had no warning of the dangers.

When people worked with the material, many installations required the person to cut asbestos on-site, which produced many damage causing dust particles. When people went to a doctor to complain about breathing difficulties, asbestos related problems would sometime be misdiagnosed as bronchitis.

Withholding Information

The problem of asbestos removal still exists today because many builders are failing to recognize the very real dangers of not treating asbestos removal properly to cut costs.

They often fear losing a job to another contractor if they need to raise estimates and this leads to risks for labourers and skilled tradespeople who work on-site. A recent Plaid Cymru request under the Freedom of Information Act asked for information to show how much the cost of removal of asbestos would be if every school in Wales tackled the problem. Estimates ran into hundreds of millions of pounds and were dubbed “wholly impractical” by Welsh Assembly ministers. Many Welsh councils, refused to provide the information they possessed concerning asbestos in their schools, but the release under the Freedom of Information Act showed that as much as 99% of schools in some Welsh local authority areas had asbestos installations.

Meanwhile Mesothelioma claims continue ensuring where possible that people get the compensation that they deserve.

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