campaigners and lawyers call for reassurance that asbestos not present in building which collapsed in Holborn

A campaign group set up to improve the health and safety of Londoners in the workplace, home and community has asked for reassurance that there is no risk to residents from asbestos following the collapse of a building in Holborn yesterday (20th April 2015), which was in the process of being demolished.

The London Hazards Asbestos Group has called on the authorities to give the highest priority to confirming that asbestos was not present in the building to reassure residents and those passing by the site of the collapse that occurred on Portugal Street, in Central London.

Asbestos was regularly used in buildings from the 1950s until the late 1990s as an insulation and fire proofing solution. It is still found today in many buildings, including homes, schools and hospitals. If disturbed, the asbestos fibres in the air can be fatal if inhaled.

Thousands of people continue to become ill and die in the UK every year from exposure to asbestos.

Janice Allen, a 53 year old saleswoman was exposed to asbestos whilst working on the shop floor at M&S, she developed Mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleural lining of the lungs and has been given only months to live.

She received a significant sum in compensation in 2014. Her case is significant as she did not work directly with asbestos but was exposed by simply inhaling fibres whilst working in a building containing asbestos.

Peter Farrell, Chair of the London Hazards Centre said:

“The Holborn building is understood to have been in the process of being demolished and we are hoping to get reassurance that asbestos was not present on site at the time of the collapse. “It is important for the safety of both local residents and those working nearby.”

Philip Lewis of the London Hazards Asbestos Group added:

“Asbestos becomes dangerous when it is disturbed: Fibres released into the air can cause serious damage to those nearby as they breath them into their lungs. The effects of asbestos exposure can be fatal and are often not felt until years after exposure.”

Harminder Bains, partner at law firm Leigh Day Law, who specialises in catastrophic injuries arising from mesothelioma and asbestos disease,  who represented Janice Allen in her legal case against M&S, said:

“The risk to public health from asbestos is so serious its existence within older buildings must never be taken for granted, if the building did contain asbestos, those working on the site or even passing by need to know immediately.”

Helen Clifford, Head of Construction at Leigh Day said: “Whilst determining the presence of asbestos following this collapse is a priority, there will need to be a thorough health and safety investigation into the circumstances surrounding the collapse.”

The London Hazards Asbestos Group has issued advice on initial steps to take if you believe you have been exposed to Asbestos. This has been produced as a leaflet below:

Click here to view the image.