Victims of asbestos backed by doctors, health and safety experts and leading lawyers have issued a plea to all parties in the upcoming local elections over fears that thousands of Scots are at risk through historic exposure in schools and hospitals.
Most public buildings constructed before the year 2000 could contain large amounts of the substance and its estimated that this type of exposure claims hundreds of Scottish lives each year with numbers expected to rise.
Law firm Thompsons, which represents victims, said asbestos exposure is one of the biggest health scandals facing Scotland.
Exposure to asbestos can cause the cancer mesothelioma.
Scotland is believed to have the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world, with 175 cases diagnosed in 2014. The west of Scotland is particularly badly affected.
Iain Naylor’s wife, Sandra, developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos dust when she was a pupil at Caldervale High School in Airdrie in the 1970s. Sandra died in 2014 at the age of just 52.
Mr Naylor is now leading calls for all prospective councillors to make the issue a priority.
He said: “We were so upset at the diagnosis because we couldn’t understand how she was exposed. Sandra didn’t work in heavy industries or anything like that. I lost my wife because she was a pupil in a school full of asbestos. How could that happen? How many others have been affected?
“I want to make a direct plea to all candidates and parties across the country to begin to address this. Meet with campaigners and victims because the safety of our kids and working people could not be any more important.”
Iain’s call for action was backed by Annette Smith chairperson of Scotland’s biggest asbestos charity, Clydeside Action on Asbestos.
Annette said: “It’s very brave of Iain to come out and comment on this. This not a party political issue but it is an issue where we really need the help of our local politicians. This is one of the biggest health challenges facing our country in the coming years and we can’t win this fight without the backing of our councillors. I would say to all political parties please look at this issue as a matter of priority, meet with us and the families and let’s make sure that all public buildings whether its schools, hospitals or local authority buildings are safe for everyone.”
Laura Blane, a partner with Thompsons Solicitors, the law firm which represents most of Scotland’s asbestos victims also backed the stand taken by Mr Naylor.
She added: “We have around 200 cases for people who have been exposed in hospitals, schools , leisure centres , council headquarters, universities, cinemas and sports stadia. It is no exaggeration to say that this is an enormous ticking time bomb and I am seeing increasing numbers of cases. We all know that our local councillors have busy in-trays but I would say to them that this is now something that touches every community in the country. It’s a problem that must be tackled with the upmost urgency. We need to know that our workplaces and are schools are safe for generations to come.”
Robin Howie, an expert consultant on the deadly substance, explained: “This is an issue that has concerned me for decades.
“Hundreds of public buildings have a significant asbestos content. Routine maintenance and general dilapidation of those buildings causes a release of asbestos fibres into the air.
“Unless stringent asbestos fibre limits of less than 100 fibres per cubic meter are introduced and enforced in our schools and public buildings then our children will continue to be exposed to an unacceptable level of risk.
“The threat cannot be overstated.”