A repost of an article by Grace Franklin of Local News Glasgow ahead of an announcement of an Asbestos Lobby called by the Glasgow Home Owners Campaign and the Scottish Tenants Organisation on Thursday 29th March, 2012.

December 9, 2011, Grace Franklin

One of the two men who trundled the packaged tiles to the locked skip donned this protective clothing before opening the skip.

Refurbishment of tiled floors in Southside flats has left long-time residents upset and with lingering worries about their health.

Tenants and owners in the flats in Myrtle View Road off Prospecthill Road were expecting the foyers and landings to be re-tiled. ‘We got a notice saying we should remove anything of ours from the landings while the men lifted the tiles and put down the new ones,’ said Mary Aitkenson. ‘When we saw the men doing the work, wearing face masks, that seemed sensible because of the dust. But when we saw a locked skip and someone came to take air tests,  we began to get worried.’

Said neighbour Del Towns: ‘I had asbestos removed from my house some years ago and we know there is asbestos in houses of this age so we wondered if there was any asbestos in the tiles that were being removed.’

When they asked the question of the City Building section responsible for the contract they got no answers.

Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) who factor the buildings for both home owners and GHA tenants told this website: ‘ No one should be in any doubt that we take every possible measure to ensure no-one is put at risk from asbestos while work is being carried out in our properties.’

He added: ‘If any tenant or homeowner has any concerns about any aspect of work carried out in their homes we are always happy to discuss this with them and resolve any issues as quickly as we can.’

The GHA spokesman had earlier said that ‘a leading world expert’ had recently examined the company’s asbestos management systems and concluded they compared very well with other systems described as ‘good practice’ and that the GHA asbestos policy was ‘robust’ and ‘fully compliant with regulations.’

In response to nine questions to GHA from this website, a statement was issued and copies forwarded of the September 2007 report from Communities Scotland’s inspection of GHA and of the 2009 Scottish Housing Regulator’s report.

The statement from GHA said: ‘A spokesman for the Scottish Housing Regulator said: In our 2009 progress audit we looked at GHA’s approach to asbestos management and found that it had made improvements since our 2007 inspection. We expect all registered social landlords to ensure they comply with relevant statutory requirements including asbestos regulations in carrying out improvement or repair work. Nothing in the evidence provided to us by GHA would indicate that we should take further regulatory intervention.’

However, another authority on asbestos: Professor Andrew Watterson, Chair of Health Effectiveness at the University of Stirling, said: ‘There is no safe level of asbestos.’ His research shows that there is an increase in people with asbestos health problems coming from the domestic sector. Previously the issue was dominant in the industrial sector where people were working with asbestos.

Thompsons Solicitors handle 90% of the asbestos compensation claims in Scotland – around 400 new cases a year. Laura Blane, Partner and specialist in lung disease litigation says: ‘ The victims we see are, sadly, a snapshot of the legacy of working in the heavy industries of 20, 30 and 40 years ago when asbestos was widely used. However, we are now noticing a definite shift in the profile of our clients, many of whom have worked for local authorities and health boards and were exposed as council houses and public buildings such as schools and hospitals were constructed or maintained. This is a trend we expect to see continue as the asbestos use of the 1960s and 70s comes back to bite.’

Commented Sean Clerkin, chair of Glasgow Home Owners and Tenants Campaign: ‘It is clear that the GHA have a lax approach to health and safety in relation to asbestos. The tile removal episodes – which have occurred in several places across Glasgow in recent days – are further proof that an independent investigation is needed into the working practices of GHA and its contractors in relation to the management of asbestos. Thousands of people are potentially being exposed to asbestos unwittingly, if our fears are realised by further investigation.’ He said that the time was coming when GHA would have to ‘consider its position,’ in respect of possible legal claims.

The residents at Myrtle View later told this website that air samples taken before and after the tile removal work were so low that they were scarcely able to be recorded. ‘We just have to believe what we are being told that it is safe. But we should have been told beforehand and not left to find out ourselves and to be left to worry,’ said Mary Aitkenson.

For more background info on the Asbestos issue, and tenant and residents organisation to deal with it, see here