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« Suing academics | Main | The truth will out »

Another Beddington inquiry

Christopher Booker reports on an official inquiry into the dangers of white asbestos - a subject on which CB has been writing for many years.

An all-too-familiar trick when the establishment faces awkward questions on some controversial matter is to set up a committee packed with people who can be relied on to avoid the real points at issue and come up with the answer it wants. The Climategate inquiries were all examples of this technique. Another was the recent inquiry, headed by the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir John Beddington, into the claim that thousands of people die every year from exposure to white asbestos.

I wonder if CB realises just how central Sir John was to the Climategate whitewashes?

(H/T Matthu)


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Reader Comments (11)

I follow the climate debate quite closely so visit here often. But I'm not an expert so don't comment much.
However on this topic I offer a personal experience. I watched my younger brother, Trevor, die a long and painful death a few years ago, from mesothelioma.
Topics such as asbestos need to be investiagted with an absolute resolve to seek the best known knowledge, unfettered freedom to say what needs to be said, to minimise human pain and suffering. Tears are in my eyes as I type this.

Jun 5, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Pittwood

My sympathies, Robin, but it is highly unlikely that what killed your brother was exposure to white asbestos.
I am planning to blog on this in the next day or so (currently laid up with a bad back! ouch!!) but briefly, Booker is right when he says that white asbestos is virtually indistinguishable from talc. Many years ago I was asked to write an article on the new rules for asbestos removal. The article never saw the light of day because my questioning of those involved in the institution that was running the safety course was not at all popular!
I am not surprised that Beddington is prepared to lend his name to yet another scam.

Jun 5, 2011 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Thanks for the clarification Mike,
My brother was a plumber and worked with various sorts of asbestos laden lagging and building materials. It was likely not the 'white' variety.
However, I would add that identification of the various sorts of asbestos is one of the main issues for lay people. Following that, knowing what to do to stay safe when near or working with the stuff.
Kind regards,

Jun 5, 2011 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Pittwood

Robin as a crude rule of thumb "soft" flexible asbestos products such as lagging were likley to have been blue asbestos, the casuative agent in mesothelioma, "hard" products such as roofing materials, gutters etc are liley to have been the "white" variety.

Inhaling dust from "white" asbestos seems to be associated with pulmonary illness, similar to "farmers lung" but you need long exposure to reasonably high concentrations. See this ppt:-

Jun 5, 2011 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Prof Beddington the Dr. Zaius of the UK government. Chief Scientist and Defender of the Faith, carpet bombs his way to fame

Jun 5, 2011 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Thanks Arthur,

Jun 5, 2011 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Pittwood

The point is that Chrysotile (white) asbestos is a totally different mineral from Crocidolite (blue) and Amosite (brown). The later two are similarly lethal. Chrysotile asbestos is most frequently encountered in asbestos cement products which are very common. In this stabilised form it is hazardous when it is brittle (because you can fall through it, on a roof) but is otherwise not really a big deal. It would be inadvisable (and certainly illegal!) to go at it with an angle grinder without wearing proper mask and protective clothing. But it would also be inadvisable to similarly go at any of the 'asbestos free' replacements without similar protection. Indeed the evidence that any of the 'asbestos free' replacements is a great deal better than Chrysotile asbestos cement is slim.

There are also a large number of products which may contain Chrysotile asbestos (thermoplastic floor tiles and the adhesive used to stick them down, some bog seats, some WC cisterns, glazing spacers for large windows, '"Galbestos" coatings on corrugated steel, some "Artex" coatings are just a few that spring to mind. IF the asbestos is Chrysotile, they are pretty harmless (and what would you do with an old bog seat that would lead you to breathe in fibres?)

BUT, some asbestos cement and other products MAY contain blue or brown asbestos. And any fibrous asbestos (or anything fibrous that you aren't absolutely certain ISN'T asbestos) should be treated with the greatest possible respect. And it certainly isn't a job for an amateur to tell which fibre is which.

So Booker is absolutely right and Moonbat (as usual) is talking out of his nether regions.

And the way the law is now framed is silly and involves needless expense (I could give even more ridiculous examples of "hazardous" materials that certainly aren't.)

But PLEASE don't take any chances with asbestos - like materials that you aren't sure about.

The law was a lot more sensible until a few years ago. In fairness, Chrysotile asbestos is still dealt with (for stripping and disposal) a bit easier than Crocidolite and Amosite. But if it has been positively identified as Chrysotile by a competent person it could either stay where it is or be disposed of very much more economically at virtually zero increased risk.

Another triumph for the greenies, the 'elf & safety brigade, the bureaucrats, the 'shock - horror' loving media. And of course for a grateful and very profitable asbestos stripping industry.

Jun 5, 2011 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

Thanks, Martin. A very useful summary.
I wish Booker could persuade Lord Gnome (at Private Eye) that CAGW is their sort of story!

Jun 6, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P


My job involves inspection of construction materials failures. One of the things we have to be aware of is asbestos materials, and as such we had an internal training session from our asbestos specialists. We were told during this that the UK has had 1 identified case where someone has developed fatal lung problems as a result of handling asbestos-cement materials. Obviously, as you rightly say, there are hugely increased risks with other asbestos-bearing materials, particularly as used for lagging (not just because it is a more dangerous shape and size of fibre, but also because the material tends to be degraded because of heat cycling).

Oh, and one of my biggest projects was to do with the inadequacies of the alternative fibre-cement materials used as a replacement (typically a mix of cellulose and polypropylene fibres - the issue is that unlike the hooked/textured surface of the chrysotile asbestos previously used, the manufactured fibres are relatively smooth and straight, so so not key into the cement as effectively and therefore allow greater movement of the material).

Jun 6, 2011 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan B

More Beddington:

Lord Willis of Knaresborough: It does not have sufficient resources.

Professor Sir John Beddington: Of course, Lord Willis. The point I am making is we need to be thinking about it. For example, at the moment the National Nuclear Laboratory passes its profits, which go through to DECC and then go to the Treasury. Therefore, one question might be to think about changing its structure so that—

Lord Willis of Knaresborough: We are always thinking about things.

Professor Sir John Beddington: I am sorry, Lord Willis, I did not catch that.

Lord Willis of Knaresborough: I said we are always thinking about things, we just never do anything.

Professor Sir John Beddington: Absolutely.

With scientific advice like that, how can Britain possibly go wrong?

Jun 6, 2011 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Iceman Cometh

Asbestos is a very small particle which may enter to the body of a human. The asbestos inside the body is very dangerous especially when it flows to the arteries and in the heart.

Oct 15, 2011 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterplumbing

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