What does asbestos mean to me?

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res-135

When we decided to launch the ‘What does asbestos mean to me?’ campaign, which runs alongside Global Asbestos Awareness Week this week (#2021GAAW), I was asked to answer the question and I couldn’t help but get reflective.

I’ve never met anyone that dreams of going into the asbestos industry when they grow up and I was no different. In fact, I quite fancied being a mechanic and looked into apprenticeships. The money was so low it put me off and I ended working in a solicitor’s office. I stayed for around two years and started to feel restless. I decided I didn’t want to work in an office anymore. I wanted a job where I would be out on the road and visiting different places.

I came across an advert in the local newspaper for an apprenticeship with an asbestos company. It appealed as it was scientific work and meant I would be working on site, so I applied. I was over the moon to find out that I had been accepted for an interview.

Disaster strikes
Then the unimaginable happened… I was involved in a motorcycle accident and was really badly injured. I was in hospital for two months and had to cancel the interview. Around a year later, after several operations and physiotherapy, I was able to return to work at the solicitors and fate stepped in…

The same advert appeared in the paper again!

I contacted the company and they remembered me. I got another interview and was offered the job as a trainee there and then. Over the next few years, I learned everything from working in the labs to air monitoring.

My ‘why’
Fast forward a few years, I joined ATAC, the UK’s leading association for the asbestos testing and consultancy industry and I ran it for three years. 

During my tenure, I actively lobbied government about the presence of asbestos in schools and campaigned for better management of asbestos in schools.

This was a big moment for me, despite me having been working in the asbestos industry for around 12 years at that point, as it was the first time I had really seen first-hand the human impact of asbestos.

As part of my campaigning, I met Michael Lees. Michael was an ex RAF Pilot who had lost his wife Gina who was 51 to mesothelioma, a cancer brought on by exposure to asbestos. Like hundreds of others, Michael’s wife was a teacher, as well as a wife and mother to young children. It turns out that Michael’s wife had been exposed to asbestos by simply pinning up schoolwork onto display boards with asbestos fibres in them. To see how this family had been torn apart and children left without a mother really affected me and drove me on to campaign further. I became heavily involved with the Asbestos in Schools Steering Group at a national level and met with many MPs over the years. 

I’ve also met lots of other people with heartbreaking stories, such as Mavis Nye, an active mesothelioma campaigner who is living with the disease today after washing her husband’s work clothes saw her exposed to asbestos. I’ve also attended Meso Warrior support groups for people affected by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. I’ve met the children, husbands and wives who have been left behind and are deeply affected.

Asbestos in 2021
Sadly, not much has changed and asbestos is still present in lots of schools today as the buildings are more than 20 years old.

Asbestos is not an ‘old problem’ it is very much still prevalent in today’s world and kills around 5,000 people a year. And it will continue to do so as long as people don’t know about it and how dangerous it is.

Asbestos was a popular building material up until it was completely banned in 1999. This means that any building, such as schools, hospitals, factories and more, that were built before 1999 could contain asbestos.

Asbestosis and mesothelioma can take a long time to present themselves, with people not experiencing symptoms until 10 – 50 years after they have inhaled the fibres.

So, in my view, we need to see more change. We need to see more people talking about asbestos and we need to start taking it seriously to save lives.

If you would like to find out more about asbestos, see our previous blogs and articles or listen to our educational podcast.

In our bid to raise awareness and educate people on the dangers of asbestos, we have also written a book to guide businesses through the process of dealing with asbestos in their workplace. Order your FREE copy here.

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.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

England star Stuart Pearce has helped to raise awareness of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma: How an England footballer is bringing home the dangers of this hidden killer

THIS afternoon, England’s Three Lions made a winning start to their World Cup campaign beating Iran in their first match in Qatar. But one footballing legend fears he could be in danger of developing mesothelioma after starting his career as an electrician in the 1980s. While former England legend Stuart Pearce is now undoubtedly best … Read more

Viviana, one of the newest members of Acorn's team

Team talk: Meet Viviana one of the talented new recruits at Acorn Analytical Services

WITH the UK in the grip of an asbestos epidemic, recruiting talented, experienced staff to join the award-winning team of experts at Acorn Analytical Services has never been more important. Despite being banned in new buildings more than 20 years ago, asbestos remains a huge problem for many businesses and, as a result, demand for … Read more

It's time to learn your asbestos ABC

Asbestos: How learning your ABC could help us to save lives

At Acorn Analytical Services we have one very simple message – ABC – or Asbestos Before Construction. It’s a simple message but it’s also an important one. Before carrying out building work of any kind you must check for the presence of asbestos first. Not doing so could have potentially serious implications for the health … Read more

Our Movember heroes, Lewis, Dave and Dan

Meet Dave, Dan and Lewis – Acorn’s amazing Movember heroes

AS we start November, Acorn Analytical Services is very proud to be supporting Movember, the annual charity event which shines a spotlight on men’s health, in particular, mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. We pride ourselves on being at the heart of our community and we always try to give back … Read more

Asbestos management company is growing

Acorn Analytical Services: An ambitious asbestos management company which continues to grow

FROM small acorns strong businesses grow – something that everyone at Acorn Analytical Services is extremely proud of. Even in turbulent times, Acorn Analytical Services continues to lead the way, offering reliable asbestos management services to a wide range of businesses and organisations – from well-known high street brands to local schools and colleges. In … Read more

Asbestos training

Asbestos training: Acorn Analytical Services launches free session to build knowledge among architects

ASBESTOS has once again dominated the headlines this week reaffirming our worst fears that the UK is in the grip of an asbestos epidemic. Many older buildings, including factories, schools and hospitals, contain this dangerous material which over time is starting to degrade. It’s a ticking timebomb and, as one of the UK’s leading consultancies, … Read more

Mesothelioma dangers in the classroom

Mesothelioma: We must protect our teachers from any hidden dangers

BEHIND every statistic we read about mesothelioma there lies a story – the story of another life lost from prolonged exposure to asbestos. Sadly, over the years it’s a story that has become all too familiar. Despite being banned in the UK more than 20 years ago, asbestos is still all around us – in … Read more

Asbestos industry turbulence: Acorn remains strong

Asbestos industry turbulence: Acorn Analytical Services is strong, dynamic and well-placed to weather the storm

WHILE economic uncertainty may be starting to bite in the asbestos industry, Acorn Analytical Services continues to go from strength to strength offering essential support to clients right across the UK. With more than 20 years’ experience in the asbestos and health and safety industry, we’ve become a trusted partner to a growing number of … Read more

Mesothelioma day 2022

Mesothelioma Day: Shining a light on the work of Mesothelioma UK

TODAY, September 26, marks Mesothelioma Day in the US, an important day to raise awareness of the disease and of the dangers of asbestos worldwide. Even though asbestos was banned from new buildings in the UK more than 20 years ago, it is a problem we all still live with. Many buildings, including factories, schools … Read more

Behind the scenes of our laboratories

The science bit: Putting the important work of our laboratories under the microscope

AMONG the experts at Acorn Analytical Services is a dedicated team of laboratory analysts who work in our in-house laboratories in Northampton and Cleckheaton. Their work involves supporting our consultants, and our clients, by analysing samples of materials which are found on-site or sent to us to be investigated. Here we take a more detailed … Read more