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Palace of Westminster Asbestos Problem Ignored

LONDON, June 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Clinica - the world's leading news service for the medical technology industry - has learned that staff and visitors to London's Houses of Parliament have been at risk of exposure to high levels of asbestos contamination for significant periods during the last three years. This news comes despite warnings from experts hired to monitor the situation as well as Parliamentary assurances that the material discovered in 2005 was safely contained.

In addition, the news casts serious doubt on whether regulations introduced three decades ago to control asbestos contamination are working to eliminate risk of exposure to this extremely dangerous carcinogen.

Potential mass exposure has serious healthcare implications including the urgent need to screen all those who may have been exposed - particularly given the important benefits derived from early diagnosis of asbestosis and mesothelioma (cancers of the lungs and digestive tract).

An asbestos survey of the Palace of Westminster was conducted as far back as 2005, identifying more than 200 contaminated sites. Early last year, the House of Lords was told that more than 1000 air tests had been carried out and that 40 sites were deemed negative for asbestos risk, but no mention was made of the remaining 160 sites.

According to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, if asbestos is in good condition, it may be safely left in place as long as its condition is monitored and steps are taken to ensure that it is not disturbed.

Contrary to assurances otherwise, Clinica has learned that a number of easily accessible sites within the Houses of Parliament were not made safe during a period of at least 11 months during 2006-7. These included a kitchen cupboard that was wedged shut with a spoon and other cupboards that were routinely disturbed by cleaners and Palace staff.

Experts had estimated that the incidence of asbestos-related diseases would peak within the next decade and then tail off, but ongoing exposure to asbestos fibres means that the problem will continue to grow unchecked.

"The healthcare diagnostics industry is racing to develop technologies for the early detection of cancer and other asbestos related lung disease, but the implications of public health failures such as this are huge," says Bernard Murphy, Clinica Deputy Editor.

Some 1800 new cases of asbestosis or related disease are diagnosed annually in England alone and UK deaths are predicted to total 30,000 by 2020.

Notes to Editors:

Clinica is the world's leading medical technology industry news service, and has been reporting on industry developments for more than 27 years from its London headquarters and offices around the world.

SOURCE Clinica
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