North East Contaminated Land Forum

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DBS recently attended the North East Contaminated Land Forum meeting, the topic for this meeting was asbestos in soils.  Paul Nathaniel discussed the recent CIRIA publication (CIRIA C733) “Asbestos in Soil and Made Ground: A Guide to Understanding and Managing Risks”, and there were also presentations from DETS chemical testing laboratory of Consett on asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs), and SIRIUS who discussed a remediation project they worked on where asbestos was the main contaminant of concern.

The NECLF hosts four meetings a year at the Environment Agencies offices in Newcastle upon Tyne, and is attended by a mix of academics, regulators, industry, consultants and anyone else who has an interest in land development.

The latest meeting helped to re-enforce the risks to human health from asbestos in soils, with DETS presenting the startling fact that 70% of samples that go through its lab from brownfield sites test positive for asbestos.

This suggests that any person working to disturb soils on a site that has not yet been characterised, really should assume asbestos is present and take preventative measures to prevent exposure to fibres.  Until testing proves otherwise, a Health & Safety Plan prepared for intrusive works should include for the potential for exposure to ACM.

The main type of asbestos that we find on our sites is chrysotile (commonly referred to as white asbestos), but it is also not uncommon to come across amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos).  The latter two are considered the most hazardous to human health due to their fibre shape which can penetrate and lodge in the lungs, leading to mesothelioma.

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