The summer looks to have finally arrived and following the second coldest Spring for more than fifty years many people will be looking forward to soaking up the sun at a popular holiday destination abroad. Others may instead simply opt to stay at home and relax on one of the many UK coastal beach resorts.

Either way, apart from the usual warnings over avoiding overexposure to the sun’s UV rays, possible local food and drinking water risks and contaminated beaches, unfortunately, holidaymakers should also have an asbestos awareness to the real and deadly dangers of the building material also being present in the hotel or other public buildings.

The warning is not so far-fetched…

Just recently a hotel in Folkestone, Kent was found to possess quantities of the insulating material in the walls, ceilings and building eaves during a major refurbishment. Any disturbance of asbestos can cause the fibre dust to become airborne and remain in the air for several days or even weeks at a time and consequently, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) stated that hotel guests “face an uncertain future” despite not being in direct contact.

It’s important to remember that despite the ban on the most toxic blue and brown asbestos forms in 1985, any public or private building constructed or refurbished in Britain at any time up until the mid 1980s and even as late as the 1990s is likely to contain white (chrysotile) asbestos. The insulating fibres were still being used in building materials, including wall panels, soffits, bath panels, roofing tiles, concrete water tanks, etc.

Going abroad for the summer vacation can present even more of a risk of exposure to asbestos…

White asbestos has been banned in 55 countries around the world, but there are still several key tourist destinations where the fibres continue to be used as a cheap source of insulation ( and strengthening) material in local building industries, especially in Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Thailand, for example, imports at least 100,000 tonnes of chrysotile asbestos every year from main asbestos exporters, such as Russia and China. Asbestos-containing materials can be found in roof tiles, vinyl floor tiles, cement pipes, and heat insulating materials as well as in automobile brake pads and clutch linings.

In 2008, the first case of mesothelioma was diagnosed in Thailand and over the following two years, the Thai Consumer Protection Board called for the labelling of products containing asbestos and a clear warning that exposure may lead to cancer.

According to the World Health Organisation, between 1994 and 2008, the world wide fatality rate for mesothelioma had passed 92,250 or 6,000 deaths every year.