Death of former MP raises fears over use of asbestos

Asbestos can lead to mesothelioma

THE death of a former MP from mesothelioma has brought the problem of asbestos into the headlines once again this week.

In December, Alice Mahon, who was the MP for Halifax for 18 years died from mesothelioma, the cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibres.

According to her family, the former MP, who campaigned on behalf of asbestos victims and had long supported a public enquiry into its use, had worked as a nurse during the 1960s and 1970s when the use of asbestos in public buildings such as hospitals, was at its height.

Her family believes she may have also been exposed to the hazardous material while working in the Houses of Parliament.

Her son Kris is now campaigning for it to be removed completely from all buildings.

Asbestos: A global problem

The UK has among the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, along with a number of other countries including The Netherlands, Malta, Belgium and New Zealand.

While the problems of asbestos in the UK are well documented, countries like Australia still have a huge problem due to its extensive use in the past.

According to figures obtained from the Australian Government, some 12.8 million tonnes was used in Australia between 1920 and 2003, mostly in products including building materials made from cement such as water pipes. The Government still estimates that Australians dispose of 4,000 tonnes of it every day, with many more dumped illegally.

Similarly, in Malta, rates of mesothelioma remain stubbornly high with many believing the country didn’t act quickly enough to ban its use. It’s also thought that the island’s history as a strategic military base by the British may have also contributed to asbestos being used more widely.

Despite what we now know about the significant risks to health, it is still widely mined and used around the world, particularly in Asia and Russia and parts of the USA.

Awareness is key

A big part of the problem is a lack of awareness about asbestos and the associated risks, particularly among younger members of society.

While it’s easy to simply dismiss it as a problem of the past, the reality is very different with millions of tonnes still being found in buildings across the UK.

It’s when this asbestos is disturbed, either accidently during repairs or renovation work, or through the deterioration of the fabric of a building, that the risks increase significantly.

What’s more worrying is that it is often found in our most commonly used buildings including schools, hospitals, factories, office blocks and even our homes.

That’s why, at Acorn, we recommend that all buildings are checked for the presence of asbestos if they were built before 1999.

A survey, carried out by one of our highly-trained, accredited consultants, will ensure your property has been checked thoroughly, particularly in places such as around pipework, boilers and loft spaces, where it is commonly found.

Samples will be taken and analysed in our in-house laboratory. We’ll ensure you receive a full report promptly, and if asbestos is identified, we will give you all the information you need to ensure it is managed safely, and in accordance with the very latest guidelines.

To learn more, you’ll find a wealth of resources on our website, simply visit

Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using surveysair testing, and asbestos removal management. 

Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us

Ian Stone

I am based out of our Northampton office but regularly travel to meet with new and existing clients. I have assisted thousands of clients over the years on varying-sized projects, several have been schemes totalling over one million pounds spent purely on asbestos. Together with Neil Munro, I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I am Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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