MORE than 230 public buildings in Bradford still contain asbestos, research by a law firm has revealed.

The figures, which include more than 4,500 public buildings, have been provided by 20 local authorities as part of new research undertaken by the legal experts Irwin Mitchell who support clients affected by exposure to the hazardous substance.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Pauline HarrisonPauline Harrison (Image: UGC)

Many of those are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs, or asbestosis, a chronic lung disease, as a consequence of their exposure.

Data supplied by Bradford Council identified it as the local authority with the seventh-highest number of public buildings containing asbestos, with a total of 238.

Irwin Mitchell has supported several clients from the Bradford area whose exposure occurred in public buildings.

These include Pauline Harrison who worked at a school in Bradford and sadly died from mesothelioma two years ago due to coming into contact with asbestos during her employment.

In November 2019, Pauline’s lawyers made a claim against Bradford Council.

Although Pauline died, aged 67, in November 2020 before the court case could be resolved. However, her loved ones continued with the case in her memory. It settled in October 2021.

“She fought bravely right to the end while undertaking her quest for answers," said Pauline's son Mark.

A spokesperson for Bradford Council said: “We extend our heartfelt condolences to Pauline Harrison’s family and friends for their sad loss.

“We understand the concern about asbestos in buildings and we take the issue extremely seriously."

In April 2022, MPs recommended a 40-year deadline be set for the removal of asbestos from the estimated 300,000 public and commercial buildings that still contain asbestos. However, the report from the Work and Pensions Committee was rejected by the government.

Following the announcement, Irwin Mitchell contacted 20 local authorities in the UK to gain insight into the true picture of asbestos in public buildings.

In response to requests submitted by law firm Irwin Mitchell under Freedom of Information Act (FOI), it was revealed that 4,533 public buildings across the 20 councils including Bradford, Leeds and Kirklees, still contain asbestos, averaging around 225 buildings per local authority.

Schools are the largest category of buildings affected, making up almost a quarter of the total number. This is followed by community centres, agricultural and park buildings, office space, libraries, leisure facilities and residential settings.

The figures also show that only 291 buildings across the 20 local authorities in question had asbestos removed from them in the last five years, but that 3,263 had had a survey undertaken within the same timeframe.

Bradford Council confirmed all 238 of their public buildings had surveys undertaken within the past five years, but no figures were provided on asbestos removals.

A spokesperson for Bradford Council added: “We comply with all the relevant laws relating to asbestos and have robust policies and procedures in place to deal with it.

“We have an Asbestos Management Unit at the council which provides each building under its control with an asbestos management plan.

“The plan makes sure the material is checked, managed and kept in good condition so that no-one is exposed to asbestos dust or fibres in any council building.

“We also train all our operational staff and managers in asbestos awareness and before any intrusive work is done on any of our properties we carry out a refurbishment and demolition survey.

“Any local schools that contain asbestos have been given clear guidance on how to manage the material in order to protect pupils, visitors and staff.

“Although the use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, a significant amount of it remains in thousands of buildings across the UK.”

Adrian Budgen, an asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Most people associate asbestos with historical exposure in factories or construction work, but these latest figures highlight the extensive risk still posed by the deadly substance across the UK in everyday buildings used by the public.

“One of the main problem areas is revealed to be schools, which are obviously densely populated with pupils, teachers and other school workers for long hours at a time. It’s extremely worrying that so many still contain asbestos, essentially putting children at risk every day.

“Whilst some of the asbestos may not yet be deemed harmful, once it’s disturbed or in a state of disrepair it can quickly become very dangerous, and with many of our public buildings being old and maintenance budgets being stretched, it’s a huge concern.”


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