Conference hears stark warnings about threat of asbestos



Fraser Simpson

The dangers of asbestos exposure and the threat asbestos poses to people of all ages throughout Scotland today were the main themes of a conference held in Glasgow on Friday 21 April.

Glasgow’s Science Centre was an appropriate venue for an event held to highlight that asbestos exposure and asbestos related illnesses are not relics of our industrial past but a public health issue affecting individuals and families in Scotland today.

Asbestos support groups in Scotland

“Asbestos: Challenges today and the threat to future generations” was organised by two asbestos support groups Clydebank Asbestos Group and Asbestos Action, and the event was supported by Digby Brown Solicitors.

The event was opened by Bob Dickie from Clydebank Asbestos Group, who introduced a short film showing the difference the organisations’ vital work makes, a theme which was echoed by Douglas McAllister, Provost of West Dunbartonshire Council.

Attendees from across Scotland heard from medical and legal experts, including consulting engineer Robin Howie, Dr Alistair Dorward, respiratory consultant and Jan Devlin, mesothelioma & lung cancer clinical nurse specialist.

Legal victories on behalf of victims of asbestos exposure

Fraser Simpson, head of Digby Brown’s specialist industrial disease department, provided a legal update; highlighting recent landmark court decisions Digby Brown have secured which are helping victims of asbestos exposure across Scotland.

Asbestos in schools – public health threat

The presence of asbestos in school buildings and the urgent public health threat it poses in Scotland was the central theme of the afternoon session.  The conference heard from Sarah Lyons, an official with the National Union of Teachers and a member of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) in England and Wales.

Ms Lyons discussed the results of a recent JUAC report which showed that asbestos is still present in up to 75 per cent of schools in England, and the work the group has done to raise awareness of the public health threat in this area, including securing a Department for Education review of its Asbestos Policy for Schools and new guidance to schools on dealing with the threat.

Asbestos Action

John Fearn and Dianne Foster from Asbestos Action discussed their work campaigning to raise awareness of asbestos exposure as a public policy issue and the wide range of support that individuals and families can need after diagnosis of an asbestos related condition.