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 spend 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

Acorn Samples 2 e1626264120320

Did you know asbestos is still reaching our shores?

Asbestos does not occur naturally in the UK but it is estimated that during the second half of the 20th century around six million tonnes of raw asbestos fibre was imported to our shores. Asbestos was used heavily by our construction trade which is why it still remains in many of our buildings today. Indeed, … Read more

jackhammer 91101 1920 e1625728987454

Construction firm fined £30,000 after exposing workers to asbestos

Every year, thousands of people in the UK are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. Often people have developed these conditions after coming into contact with asbestos years earlier – in some cases decades earlier. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that people aren’t being exposed to asbestos today. It is estimated that there are around 1.5m buildings in … Read more

Neil Munro at SME Northamptonshire Business Awards cropped

Awards and awareness

This has been a really big week for us at Acorn Analytical Services – with award wins, award nominations and a nationwide event to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos. We started the week on a high when we won the Silver Award in the Business Innovation category at the Northamptonshire SME Business Awards. … Read more

disposal 1846033 1920 e1624522484148

UK firm leads the world in diverting asbestos away from landfill

It’s not often we get to say this, but we heard some genuinely uplifting news about asbestos a few weeks ago. A firm in Wolverhampton, called Thermal Recycling, has opened the world’s first plant for environmentally responsible asbestos disposal. The company uses a scientific process called denaturing to convert materials containing asbestos into a new … Read more

Mens Health Week

Men’s Health Week: Men account for nearly 85% of asbestos-related deaths in Great Britain

If you’ve been on social media or picked up a newspaper during the past few days, you’ll have been hard pressed not to notice that it’s Men’s Health Week. Men’s Health Week raises awareness about the health issues that affect men disproportionately and focuses on getting men to become more aware of health problems they … Read more

Acorn Analytical Services 41 sml

UKATA receives high commendation

We were thrilled to hear a few days ago that the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) has been highly commended in the Senior Leadership Engagement Award category at The Impact Awards, hosted by mental health charity, Mates in Mind. For anyone who is not familiar with the work of UKATA it is the UK’s largest … Read more

Acorn School Site 6 Medium e1622637242699

Is your school using the summer holidays to get to grips with asbestos?

When you think of where asbestos might be lurking in the UK you might picture prefab houses or garages or possibly post-wartime office blocks and factories. The last place any of us would ever want to picture asbestos are the places where we send millions of our children every day – our schools. Is your … Read more

adult 1807500 1920 e1622108505653

Are holidaymakers in danger of finding asbestos on beaches?

We’re very lucky in the UK to have access to a wide variety of beautiful beaches but heartbreakingly sometimes these great natural resources hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. So are holidaymakers in danger of finding asbestos on beaches? Where was asbestos on beaches found? Earlier this week an investigation was launched in … Read more

thermometer 1539191 1920 e1621345043917

Can you help eradicate asbestos-related cancers?

Throughout this month the spotlight is once again falling on the lifesaving work that is being done around the world to tackle cancer.  The American Association for Cancer Research is championing National Cancer Research Month in America and today London is hosting the 29th International Conference on Cancer Research and Pharmacology webinar as part of … Read more

pjimage 14 e1620895625524

Investing in the next generation of asbestos consultants

The reason we are one of the UK’s best asbestos consultancies is because we have always been passionate about investing in our team. Our management team has more than 100 years of experience between them and we take our commitment to managing asbestos concerns for clients of all sizes from all industries incredibly seriously. We … Read more