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Yet more false and misleading claims on asbestos from the Sunday Telegraph

with 4 comments

The Sunday Telegraph’s latest comment piece from Christopher Booker, downplaying the health risks of white asbestos, is in a similar vein to the 41 other articles that Booker has had published on the subject since 2002.

Booker again repeats his false (and dangerous) claim that white asbestos poses “virtually zero” risk to human health, and his long-debunked assertion that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) once agreed with him on this point.

He claims that concerns about the health risks of white asbestos are based on a “confusion”, which has been “deliberately promoted”  by personal injury lawyers and asbestos removal contractors, and that the Health and Safety Executive has latterly been “shamefully conniving with both these rackets”.

The ‘hook’ for the latest article is a ruling from the Advertising Standards Agency, about a series of HSE radio ads highlighting the risks faced by construction and maintenance workers in older buildings where asbestos is still be present. The ads were part of a wider HSE campaign to encourage trades-people to protect themselves adequately when handling asbestos.

Following a complaint from the indefatigable John Bridle, the Advertising Standards Agency had ruled that the advertisements were misleading.

The HSE had suggested that six joiners, six electricians, three plumbers and 20 tradesmen died every week from asbestos-related diseases. After looking at the calculations used to produce these figures, the ASA concluded that the numbers used should instead have been “six joiners, five electricians, three plumbers and 18 other tradesmen” (ie. a total of 32 workman dying each week from asbestos-related illness rather than 35).

The ASA agreed that “it was reasonable for HSE to highlight the death rates for asbestos-related diseases, including those which were based on estimates, to today’s tradesmen. We considered however that the ads should have made clear that they were based on estimates and the claims should have been made in less absolute tones.”

Booker says that Bridle had complained to the ASA that the HSE’s publicity campaign was “wilfully misleading”, and that their estimates about the number of asbestos deaths was “wildly exaggerated”, and that the ASA had upheld all of Bridle’s complaints.

But so far as I can see, the ASA ruling did not conclude the HSE had deliberately set out to mislead people, or that the figures they used were “wildly exaggerated”. And there is certainly nothing in the ruling to support Booker’s conspiracy theory that the Health and Safety Executive had been “putting out advertisements designed to panic the public into falling for the wiles either of the lawyers or of rapacious removal contractors.”

Written by Richard Wilson

October 4, 2009 at 8:05 am

4 Responses

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  1. Scientific evidence proves, and even the HSE accept, that white asbestos contributes less to diseases.

    However, most tradesmen will have cut up brown (amosite) asbestos, which is the predominant fibre that was put into asbestos boards and ceiling tiles etc. Amosite is closer in chemical composition to blue asbestos as it is in the same mineral family.

    None of the news stories have reported that the ASA has allowed the HSE to continue to run the adverts with the word “approximately” in front of any reference to the numbers of deaths.

    Michael Philips

    October 5, 2009 at 7:56 am

  2. whether it was really fake


    October 12, 2009 at 4:24 am

  3. If someone is going to publish a story supposedly a factual article then he should do his homework properly.

    He has upset a lot of very special friends of mine these are people who are or whose family are suffering from the results of asbestos and have Meso they are living proof or have actually died because of asbestos.

    If he is a real man and dedicated to truth then I challenge him to do his homework and write about the disease that so many people have through no fault of their own.

    But I believe he is a man who would not be willing to do so he only wants to write contriversial material and is not interested in proving himself a well read and actually make a real contribution to peoples knowledge and help to highlight the plight of these people.


    February 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm

  4. Hello, i found your site at yahoo and you are providing interesting stuff. I like it,

    Ugly Americans

    May 16, 2010 at 10:02 am

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