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

RAAC and asbestos could be a problem in some buildings

The Ultimate Guide to Asbestos Surveyors: Why Your Safety Depends on It

Asbestos, once a ‘miracle material’, now poses severe health risks. Uncover the significance of asbestos surveys in the UK and why your safety depends on it.

Asbestos: Having the right consultancy in your corner has never been more important

‘Having the right consultancy to help you manage asbestos has never been more important’

A REPORT written by asbestos expert and director of Acorn Analytical Services, Ian Stone, has highlighted the worrying state of asbestos in the UK. The Annual Asbestos Industry Review provides a unique insight into the industry and a snapshot of the work being done by Acorn Analytical Services – one of the largest independent consultancies … Read more

Management of asbestos in schools

Management of Asbestos in Schools: A Comprehensive Analysis

In this blog post, we delve into the critical issue of asbestos management in UK schools, the recent HSE report, and the role of Acorn Analytical Services in ensuring safe learning environments.

Asbestos: Dispelling 3 common myths

Is your business fully compliant with the latest asbestos regulations?

HOW much do you really know about asbestos? If your building was built before 1999, have you ever had it checked? If you know it’s there, do you know for sure that you’re compliant with the latest rules and regulations around asbestos management? If the answer to either of these questions is ‘no’ it’s time … Read more

Asbestos in fire

Act Now: Uncover the Silent Perils of Asbestos in Fire-Damaged Buildings – A Deep Dive into the Brighton Hotel Incident

Asbestos in fire situations poses significant health risks. Understand the dangers, especially in textured coatings, and the need for expert remediation.

Acorn Analytical Services director Ian Stone has worked in the asbestos industry for 20 years.

#ActNowOnAsbestos: How our FREE training sessions will help raise awareness

ASBESTOS is firmly in the headlines once again and we’re delighted to see an open and very frank discussion finally taking place about the material itself, the risks around mesothelioma and the steps we should all be taking to protect ourselves. At Acorn Analytical Services it’s something we’ve been talking about for years and as … Read more

Asbestos: Having the right consultancy in your corner has never been more important

‘Supporting #ActNowOnAsbestos is the right thing for us to do’

Last weekend The Sunday Times launched #ActNowOnAsbestos, a hard-hitting campaign which urges the Government to take urgent action to protect people from the UK’s asbestos epidemic. The campaign makes important recommendations to help protect members of the public from the hidden dangers of asbestos, which poses a serious threat to our health and wellbeing more … Read more

Ian Stone, director of asbestos management consultancy, Acorn Analytical Services

‘We finally have hope – hope that those in authority will take notice, take action and save lives’

Media statement in response to the launch of the Sunday Times Campaign, Act Now on Asbestos: Ian Stone, Director of Acorn Analytical Services, said: “For ten years Acorn Analytical Services has been on the front line of the UK’s battle with asbestos, banging the drum for change and fighting to raise awareness of the sheer … Read more

Using our success to highlight the dangers of asbestos

How we’re using our success to drive home the dangers of asbestos

The whole team at asbestos consultancy Acorn Analytical Services was over the moon to walk away with not one, but two awards at the prestigious Northamptonshire SME Awards earlier this month. Directors Neil Munro, Paul Knights and Sam Savage were in Daventry for the event which celebrates the work of businesses across Northamptonshire and their … Read more

Men's Health Week: Focus on a hidden killer

Men’s Health Week: Mesothelioma is the killer few are talking about

FOR many men mesothelioma is a very real threat. Caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, it’s a cancer which affects 2,500 people every year in the UK. More than 80% of those are men. This Men’s Health Week, the team at Acorn Analytical Services is determined to shine a light on the dangers of asbestos … Read more