The claim by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that more than 1.8 million people in the UK are exposed to asbestos every year is often repeated at this site as well as at other asbestos-related forums.

Some people might be sceptical that such a high number of exposures are still possible given that most asbestos use was banned in the mid 1980s.

However, the British Lung Foundation estimates that there are probably some 14 million properties around the country, which were constructed or renovated with building materials made from asbestos fibres. Importation of white asbestos (chrysotile) was not banned until 1999 and a full ban was not enforced by an EU directive until January 2005.

Incredibly, there is still a staggering lack of asbestos awareness of the continued risk to health and the legal requirements necessary to be carried out before commencing work on building /renovation or demolition projects.

News of court cases are reported with regular monotony where building contractors appear to ignore statutory asbestos surveys and a disregard for the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations which give precise instructions on the procedure for asbestos disposal and management.

According to the Great British Asbestos in Buildings Survey 2011, a quarter of building contractors are unaware that they have come into direct contact with asbestos while on-site and just one in eight say they possess a good working knowledge or qualifications in working with asbestos.

The latest example of negligence of proper procedures was recently heard at court. A Cheshire based timber company – who did not have a licence to remove or handle asbestos-containing materials – was fined a total of over £ 23, 000 including costs, as a result of not making a prior check for the presence of asbestos and allowing “unqualified workmen spread potentially deadly asbestos fibres” on-site.

The court heard how the removal of asbestos insulation boards and the ensuing demolition work caused the disturbance and spread of potentially deadly asbestos fibres. Instead of notifying the authorities and arranging for a proper licensed disposal, asbestos dust was simply swept into rubble bags and, along with the asbestos insulation boards, removed to a skip lorry.

Once airborne asbestos dust is inhaled, the fibres become permanently embedded in the lung linings, causing inflammation, tissue thickening and scarring and the development of asbestosis diseases, most notably, the incurable fatal mesothelioma cancer.

A long gestation period of up to 50 years can elapse before the first mesothelioma asbestosis symptoms emerge, by which time, the disease would almost have invariably spread to a stage where life expectancy can be under 6 months.

The HSE say that at least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma continue to be diagnosed in the UK every year. In 2008, mesothelioma claimed over 2,250 deaths and in 2009, over 800 new cases of asbestosis were reported.

Forecasts for the rise of asbestos-related deaths until at least 2050 may also be seen in the context of a continued lack of asbestos awareness and disregard of regulations by certain companies who work in construction/demolition.