“Asbestos-riddled” museum provides a cautionary tale for mineral wool

Plans to open a new arts centre in the UK have been delayed after the building it was due to be housed in was found to be "riddled with asbestos". Wakefield Council wants to open a new venue in the town's former BHS store on Kirkgate, which closed in 2016. However, before any such development can take place, the building will need to have the dangerous asbestos removed.

The sad irony is that, as asbestos is removed because it is banned due to the health hazards it poses, its successor mineral wool is being laid as insulation in homes and buildings around Europe. Mineral wool is a type of thermal insulation made from rocks and minerals. After asbestos was banned in most countries in the 1990s, the de facto replacement for it became mineral wool. However, concerns have been raised that the health risks associated with mineral wool are potentially just as worrying as those that caused asbestos to be banned.

Campaigners fear there is not enough public awareness about the possible health risks of mineral wool, for both workers in the construction industry and also the general public who might be installing, removing or disposing of the insulation product. These concerns were summarised in a report by EU Today, which highlighted the lung and skin conditions that workers and homeowners conducting DIY could be at risk from. The report called for the product to be re-tested and for the product to be properly labelled so that the risks and instructions for reducing those risks are very clear to users of mineral wool and demanded that protective gear be compulsory for those who have to work with the material in the construction industry.

At an event in the European Parliament, Aurel Laurenţiu Plosceanu from the European Economic and Social Committee and the Rapporteur on ‘Working with Hazardous Substances’ said: “More needs to be done to make more people aware of the potential dangers of mineral wool. There is a real risk associated with this material and, like asbestos, people need to be made aware of the possible risks.”

As the people of Wakefield have to wait rather longer for their museum as hazardous asbestos is removed from the building, it does seem strange that we continue to us a material that many fear poses similar health risks.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

In October 2021 POLITICO described Gary as "the busiest man in Brussels!"

Gary's most recent book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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