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Remember, remember, no asbestos on the bonfire this November

31 October 2013

The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) is reminding anyone planning a bonfire during the Halloween-firework season to ensure that what they're putting onto their bonfires is not concealing a hidden killer.

You might be forgiven for asking why the warning – after all, asbestos is an historical problem, isn’t it? Sadly this misconception contributes to the deaths of those who unknowingly come into contact with a substance that still poses a very real risk to public health.
An increase in fly tipping has followed the economic downturn and some unscrupulous companies have resorted to dumping asbestos waste illegally. The Health and Safety Executive has prosecuted many of them this year, but our fear is people will unknowingly pick up asbestos and throw it on the bonfire, with potentially fatal consequences.
Asbestos remains a hidden killer, as diseases relating to it can take up to 20 years to develop and there is no cure. Over 4,500 people still die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres and asbestos remains the biggest single cause of work related deaths in the UK. The last thing anyone wants to see is fly tipped asbestos adding fuel to this fire.
The message is simple. Under no circumstances be tempted to collect and burn any unknown materials and report any suspicious substances to the authorities. Asbestos is still widely present in many public and private buildings and can look harmless. Even if you are burning things from your own home, be very sure you know what the material is composed of.
The UKATA website www.ukata.org.uk and the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos are good sources of further advice.