NEARLY 200 public buildings in the county still contain asbestos.

Data supplied by Wiltshire Council identified that the county has a total of 194 public buildings containing the hazardous substance, making it the 10th highest out of the local authorities approached in a new research project.

The council also confirmed that asbestos surveys are carried out annually, and that a total of 120 removals had been carried out in the past five years.

Legal experts from the law firm Irwin Mitchell who support clients affected by exposure to asbestos have undertaken this research.

It revealed that, overall, more than 4,500 public buildings across 20 of the highest populated council areas in the UK still contain asbestos.

Many people exposed to asbestos are later diagnosed with mesothelioma - a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs - or asbestosis, a chronic lung disease.

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 – but the government rejected the report from the Work and Pensions Committee.

Following the announcement, Irwin Mitchell contacted 20 local authorities in the UK and submitted Freedom of Information Act requests which revealed that 4,533 public buildings still contain asbestos, averaging at around 225 buildings per local authority.

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

The legal experts believe if the data provided is repeated around the country, it’s estimated that across the 387 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales combined, there are around 87,000 public buildings containing asbestos.

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

If UK-wide removals continued at the current rate, only around 2,300 of the 4,500 buildings across the 20 councils would have asbestos removed within the next 40 years, the recommended deadline, so the speed of the removal process would need to be doubled to meet the requirement.

Specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer Adrian Budgen 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.

“We come across families and individuals affected by asbestos most often after coming into contact with it in their workplace, and to have it confirmed that it’s not yet been eradicated from a large number of public buildings is incredibly concerning.

“It’s extremely worrying that so many schools 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.”

“The data collated from our FOI requests demonstrates that asbestos remains a clear and present danger.  It was therefore deeply disappointing that the call put forward last April, for a 40-year deadline for its removal, was rejected. While we understand the logistical and financial scale of the challenge of removing it safely, it’s inherently dangerous and simply can’t be left in situ. 

“More needs to be done to help protect people and we call on the government to approve the recommendations of the Select Committee Report, accelerate the removal process, and ensure asbestos is extracted from all public buildings within the given timeframe.”