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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Asbestos errors reviewed
Asbestos check
Buildings are being examined again for asbestos
Checks are being made on a number of council buildings after it emerged that a laboratory made mistakes in asbestos tests.

Eleven councils in the west of Scotland have called independent experts in to inspect schools, social work homes and offices after the errors came to light at Glasgow Scientific Services, a council-run laboratory.

The number of mistakes made by the laboratory's asbestos unit will not be known until independent inspections, which began 13 months ago, are completed.

But tests in Renfrewshire Council's area are understood to have shown up six mistakes, in five schools and a changing pavilion.

The affected areas of the buildings have been closed until the asbestos is safely removed.

The asbestos section was shut down as soon as we realised there was a problem

Council spokesman
Glasgow City Council, which ran the asbestos unit, said it could not comment on how many buildings were wrongly given the all-clear.

Four people who were dismissed from the six-member unit are currently awaiting industrial tribunal hearings, while another two who were dismissed early in June 1999 were later reinstated.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "We cannot talk in detail about this case because there are four people involved in an industrial tribunal hearing."

Counselling offered

Problems at the laboratory are said to have surfaced in May 1999 when asbestos was found in a mothballed school which had earlier been declared asbestos-free.

A total of 157 council workers and contractors could have been exposed to potentially lethal white asbestos dust during construction work at the former Craigbank School, in Glasgow.

All the workers were offered medical testing and counselling and a Health and Safety Executive investigation was launched into the laboratory.

Glasgow City Council plaque
Four workers were sacked from the unit
"The asbestos section was shut down as soon as we realised there was a problem," said the council spokesman.

The laboratory was originally run by the now-defunct Strathclyde Council.

Each of the 11 councils in the former Strathclyde area has called in independent specialists to test for asbestos in buildings previously declared safe.

Some tests have shown that the laboratory's results were correct. Other work done by the labs, which also tests food and water, was not affected the council spokesman said.

Asbestos is only a health risk when it is disturbed, but is found in many buildings built in the 1950s and 1960s.

If asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious lung and breathing disorders, including asbestosis, which can take up to 25 years to emerge.

There have been a number of claims brought by people suffering from asbestosis in recent years, some of which have resulted in damages pay-outs.

In Scotland, some women claim their illnesses were caused by coming into contact with clothes worn by their husbands who worked in shipyards, where asbestos was commonly used.

The plight of women sufferers has been recognised by the English courts but so far there has been no Scottish legal precedent.

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See also:

18 Jan 99 | Health
Asbestos will 'kill 250,000'
04 Nov 98 | Health
White asbestos board danger
31 Aug 98 | A-B
Asbestos disease factfile
18 Aug 98 | Latest News
UK set to ban 'killer dust'
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