Legacy Blog: The Ban of Asbestos

It was on this day, back in 1999 that the complete ban of asbestos finally came into force.  Although the ban was drawn up in August of 1999, it didn’t come into force until the 24th November 1999. It marked the shifting attitudes towards the danger posed by asbestos, and paved the way for future regulations, and brought about a far more serious attitude toward the deadly material.

A Long Road…

It’s hard to believe that the dangers of asbestos were known about long before this date.  Way back in 1899, Dr Montague Murray, a London doctor, carried out a post-mortem report on an asbestos factory worker in his 30s, and discovered the presence of asbestos in the deceased’s lungs. This urged Murray to conclude that the presence of asbestos, if not the actual cause, at the very least, contributed to his premature death.

Even after cases such as this it still wasn’t enough to prompt the ban of its usage, meaning that asbestos was continually imported and used in UK buildings on a very large scale, hence why it is still such a huge problem to this day.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the first voluntary ban was brought in, and then the 1980s before the first obligatory ban. Finally, the Asbestos (Prohibitions) (Amendment) Regulations 1999, was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Prescott, and brought into force on 24th November 1999.

Paving the way for tougher legislation

It might’ve taken a while, but the ban of asbestos in the UK was still ahead of its European deadline, proving that attitudes were changing and the link between death and asbestos was finally accepted as a very real threat.

Since the ban, legislation surrounding asbestos has adapted accordingly. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 legislation was brought in to regulate and assist in dealing with the deadly material. These regulations were then updated to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, to further improve and tighten up laws surrounding asbestos, thus lowering the chances of asbestos exposure, clamping down on the training required for asbestos removal, and also improving asbestos management plans expected of duty holders.

Although asbestos is still a huge problem, it is because of the ban on this day back in 1999, that measures were taken to at least stem the issue from turning into an even bigger problem.