March 19, 2019

Feds: Franklin Park metal company didn't tell workers about asbestos

A Franklin Park metal company has been fined by a federal agency for not telling its workers about the presence of asbestos.

The regional office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited A.M. Castle, 3400 N. Wolf Road, with nine violations on March 24 — five of which are classified as serious.

OSHA spokeswoman Rhonda Burke said the government agency defines “serious” violations as ones where “death or serious harm could exist from a hazard they did or should have known existed.”

The serious violations include:

• Not posting danger signs or warning employees about confined spaces (inside a machine used for cleaning or altering the surface of metal) that could expose employees to asbestos

• Failing to inform employees there might be asbestos in areas where they work

• Training on asbestos for employees not being up to OSHA standards

• Not providing annual asbestos training focusing on recognizing asbestos and how to avoid it.

This is not the first time OSHA has cited A.M. Castle’s facility in Franklin Park. In October 2011, OSHA cited the company for 20 serious violations, Burke said. OSHA proposed $127,600 in fines, which was negotiated down to $63,500.

In March 2012, OSHA again cited Castle Metals on two violations. Those were not providing awareness training for employees who work in areas with asbestos, and not having a copy of the OSHA Asbestos Standard available to employees. OSHA cited A.M. Castle for a total of $8,400, which A.M. Castle paid without negotiating or contesting.

A.M. Castle was fined for those same two violations this year.

This time around, OSHA has proposed $59,720 in fines; A.M. Castle has 50 working days to respond. The company can contest the fines, meet with the area director of OSHA and perhaps negotiate lower fines, or pay the fines. The company will also have to correct the violations

A.M. Castle is headquartered in Oak Brook. The company’s legal department declined to comment.

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

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Feds: Franklin Park metal company didn't tell workers about asbestos

Council agrees pay-out after school cleaner's asbestos death

A COUNCIL says it is managing and monitoring asbestos in its schools, after it agreed to pay compensation for the death of a cleaner following exposure to the deadly fibres.

Durham County Council says it is meeting its legal responsibilities on the now-banned material, which was in common use until the 1970s, despite having admitted liability and agreed to pay out to Alan Hamilton over the death of his wife Laura from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in June 2011.

Mrs Hamilton worked as a cleaner at Belmont Comprehensive School, Durham, in the mid-1980s, when industrial illness lawyer Philip Thompson, who represents her husband, says not only was there asbestos present, but large amounts of brown asbestos was damaged and therefore likely to give off deadly loose fibres.

The out-of-court settlement, of an undisclosed sum, was reached following a three-year legal battle.

Mr Thompson, of Thomson and Co Solicitors, said: “We are delighted to have settled this claim.

“Our client has been determined to prove the extent of asbestos exposure that took place at the school at the time and we had extensive evidence to prove that exposure had taken place.

“Nothing will ever bring back Mrs Hamilton, but this decision will give Mr Hamilton some degree of closure.”

Sean Durran, the council’s senior asbestos officer, said: “We have a comprehensive asbestos management policy and system in place for all council premises, including schools.

“This ensures that asbestos containing materials are managed and monitored in accordance with legal responsibilities.”

Asbestos was commonly used in fireproofing and thermal insulation during the 1960s and 1970s and only banned in the UK in 1999.

Recent reports suggest it is still present in nearly 86 per cent of UK schools.

The Health and Safety Executive says it is “endemic”; and removing it all would cost billions and take decades.

Undisturbed, it can be managed safely; but pressure is growing for the Government to do more.

Mesothelioma claims 2,500 lives in the UK every year – more than the country’s roads – with 300 of those deaths attributed to schools.

Nearly 300 teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980, including 158 in the last decade, and the rate is increasing – from three in 1980 to 19 in 2012.

The Government is producing new guidelines on managing asbestos in schools and continuing to fund its removal “where appropriate”.

Mr Thompson said: “We are reaching the stage where instances of people who have worked in schools, or who have attended schools as pupils, are contracting asbestos related illnesses with increasing frequency, and the Government is rightly under increasing pressure to address the matter.”

He added: “While cases of this kind will never be as widespread as those we saw from shipyards in the region, they are certainly growing more frequent – and people will want reassurance that there is no ongoing danger from asbestos in schools.”

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Council agrees pay-out after school cleaner's asbestos death

Asbestos at federal building was a surprise to electrician

Ottawa electrician Denis Lapointe says he was exposed to asbestos and other toxins at work for 16 years, and only recently learned the full extent of his potential exposure after filing access to information requests.

The 54-year-old licensed electrician and former public servant had a right to know he was working around hazardous substances.

Now he wonders how many other workers at the Canada Revenue Agency buildings at 875 Heron Rd. may have been inadvertently exposed to asbestos.

Lapointe worked for the CRA from 1992 to 2008 and over that time, the Heron Road taxation facility accommodated thousands of workers.

His job involved drilling and pulling wires through walls, floors and ceilings. He says since he didn’t know he could be disturbing asbestos all those years — his fellow workers wouldn’t have known either.

“I was exposed and I wasn’t properly protected, and here I was walking through this place, using air hoses and whatnot and blowing it to other people, so I have a conscience…That eats me up,” says Lapointe.

Lapointe has obtained documents that show the asbestos contamination was and continues to be present on all floors of the building where he worked. Lapointe says he had to get the reports through access to information requests.

Denis St. Jean, the national health and safety officer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says Lapointe should have been informed of the dangers in his workplace.

“Since 1986 the Canada Labour Code applies. There should have been at least some risk assessments on whether or not these buildings have asbestos containing materials … so they can have readily available that information for their workers,” St. Jean says.

A 2014 consultant's report found the CRA building at 875 Heron Rd. would need to remove asbestos containing materials and debris in order to comply with federal regulations. (Julie Ireton/CBC)A 2014 consultant’s report found the CRA building at 875 Heron Rd. would need to remove asbestos containing materials …Poll question

On mobile?Click here to vote on whether employers should have to tell their employees about asbestos or not.

Years of asbestos reports

Decades of asbestos assessment reports for 875 Heron Rd. show contamination in certain areas that would be of concern to tradespeople or maintenance workers.

A consultant’s report from October 2014 reads: “Based on the findings of the reassessment, the facility is not in compliance. In order to bring the subject facility into compliance with applicable regulations, GEC [the consultant] recommends repair and or removal of damaged ACMs [asbestos containing materials] as well as asbestos-containing debris.”

It is not clear what policy or code the building does not comply with.

Public Works and Government Services Canada owns the building.

In a statement, the department says it “proceeds regularly with assessments of all building conditions including asbestos-containing materials. This report pertaining to 875 Heron Rd. is part of our regular due diligence, to ensure that the building conditions comply with all codes and regulations.”

The department says there are only small amounts of asbestos in remote areas of the building. But as a tradesperson, Lapointe assesses it differently.

– DATABASE: 16 carcinogens in Canadian workplaces

“It’s everywhere. It lines all kinds of piping, it lines ventilation piping, it’s in plaster, it’s in grout that finishes the walls, it’s in the cement where you’re chipping, and the tiles. It’s identified everywhere,” he says.

Bob Kingston, a health and safety expert and national president of the Agriculture Union, a component of the country’s biggest public service union, says the federal government is too often allowed to get away with safety breaches.

“In the federal public service they just say we’re working on it and that’s good enough. They come back every year, and as long as they have some report saying they’re working on it everything is fine,” Kingston says.

Lapointe sent for health testing in 1998

For years, Lapointe, a non-smoker, has suffered from poor health and breathing problems, although he has not been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease. He’s been searching for answers from his former employer – CRA – as well as other departments, including Public Works and Health Canada.

He’s trying to figure out what he was exposed to in the workplace and what could be making him sick. He knows the latency for asbestos-related disease can be 10 to 40 years.

During Lapointe’s sleuthing, he says he discovered correspondence showing his employer knew he’d potentially been exposed to asbestos as far back as 1998, when he and three other electricians were sent for chest X-rays and pulmonary tests.

The letter from CRA to Health Canada reads: “There is a possibility that in performing their duties over the past few years that one or all of them could have been inadvertently exposed to asbestos-containing material.”

Lapointe says he wasn’t told about the potential asbestos exposure. He thought he was tested because of chemical exposure in the building.

Denis Lapointe filed access to information requests to try to find out what he might have been exposed to in the workplace, which may have led to health problems. (Julie Ireton/CBC)Denis Lapointe filed access to information requests to try to find out what he might have been exposed to in the …“What other reason would there have been? I can’t say what I thought then because I really didn’t know. Just the fact I wasn’t being provided [the information] is a pretty good start that I wasn’t supposed to know.”

Lapointe says he was never given the results of those medical tests, but documents he’s received show he was diagnosed with pulmonary restrictions on several occasions. The testing stopped in 2004 without explanation, he says.

“They never told me there was any concerns,” he says.

Labour Canada now investigating

Lapointe’s concerns about the building and his health issues have now led to an investigation by the federal Labour Department.

A health and safety officer is now looking into asbestos, air quality and other potential safety issues. Lapointe and two other workers filed joint grievances detailing their health concerns and took their issues to the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

Occupational health and safety specialist Laura Lozanski says in her experience there’s a lack of enforcement and political will when it comes to protecting workers.

The former nurse who oversees occupational health for the Canadian Association of University Teachers says this case raises serious issues.

“Workers have the right to go into a workplace and expect their workplace to be safe. That’s the law,” she says.

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Asbestos at federal building was a surprise to electrician

Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

The demolition of Mr Fluffy asbestos homes across Canberra is expected to get under way after June this year with more than half already acquired by the ACT government.

Acting Chief Minister Simon Corbell announced on Friday more than half of all homeowners had accepted offers made through the buyback program, four months before the scheme closes.

Already 511 offers have been accepted from the 1021 affected properties in the ACT.

Mr Corbell said the latest results showed many affected homeowners were taking the opportunity to move on to another property.


“I encourage homeowners who are still considering whether or not to enter the buyback program to discuss their individual circumstances with the Asbestos Response Taskforce around what support can be provided,” he said in a statement.

The government now owns 131 properties and is overseeing security and maintenance.

A pilot demolition program of a small number of affected properties will start in late March to confirm procurement, demolition and communications processes.

Two of the properties included in the pilot will be public housing.

“The Mr Fluffy response is not only an ACT government, but an ACT community response,” Mr Corbell said.

“It is an issue affecting 58 suburbs across the territory and has a cost to our community of at least $400 million, even after the resale of remediated blocks. It is, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the ACT for years to come.”

This week Chief Minister Andrew Barr said some compulsory acquisitions could be required if affected homeowners decided not to join the buyback scheme before June 30.

He warned homeowners they would not receive a better offer as a result of not signing up.

Mr Corbell said the taskforce would be working closely with the community ahead of the demolition program to ensure safety and security.

“Reducing the impact to the community through efficient scheduling of demolition works will also be a paramount consideration,” he said.

Tenders for the demolitions are being finalised, a spokeswoman for the Asbestos Taskforce said last week.

The government has confirmed it owns affected houses in the following suburbs: Forrest, Ainslie, Downer, Griffith, Hackett, Narrabundah, O’Connor, Watson, Yarralumla, Kambah, Wanniassa, Chapman, Chifley, Curtin, Duffy, Farrer, Fisher, Garran, Holder, Hughes, Lyons, Mawson, Pearce, Rivett, Stirling, Torrens, Waramanga, Weston, Aranda, Charnwood, Cook, Evatt, Flynn, Giralang, Higgins, Holt, Latham, Macgregor, Macquarie, Melba, Page, Scullin, Spence, Weetangera.

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Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

Contractors disturb asbestos at Berridale Public School

Students at Berridale Public School might have been exposed to asbestos as workers cut into bonded asbestos sheeting during the first week of the new school year.

The school is on the NSW Government School Asbestos Register and the room was listed as being presumed to have asbestos present.

WorkCover NSW confirmed it visited the school, located between Cooma and Jindabyne, after parents raised concerns.

Contractors hired by the NSW Department of Education were installing airconditioning in a demountable building at the school on Wednesday last week when students returned for their first day. They drilled into the ceiling, which contained bonded asbestos.

WorkCover said that according to its investigations, the workmen only “discovered potential asbestos-containing material while drilling into the ceiling”.

In 2008, the NSW Department of Education launched a $3 million asbestos register to reduce risk of exposure to the toxic substance.

It is not known whether the workmen were aware of the asbestos before they began drilling. But WorkCover said they stopped work immediately and attempted to restrict the entry of children to the site. The demountable building is used as a lunch room when it is raining and students were inside that day, because it was raining.

WorkCover said the students were moved to another building and access to the demountable building was cut off. Asbestos warning stickers and barriers were then erected.

One parent, who did not wish to be named, said she assumed work was only halted because WorkCover had been notified.

She said it was not good enough that children had been in and around the area while fibres had potentially been released into the atmosphere. She also questioned why the work was not completed during the holidays.

“What I don’t understand is how work began on this site when it is listed on a public registry as having presumed asbestos.”

A spokesman for WorkCover NSW said a licensed asbestos removalist undertook testing on the building and the asbestos was removed. A clearance certificate had been issued by an occupational hygienist.

“WorkCover is satisfied that the school and contractor have acted in accordance with work health and safety laws.”

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said “the work to install airconditioning in the school’s two demountable classrooms was carried out in accordance with the department’s Asbestos Management Plan and WorkCover NSW requirements”.

“The department has received a clearance certificate for the subject area. WorkCover has inspected the site and will provide a written report to the school when it is ready. The school principal is keeping parents informed about the situation.”

Meanwhile, work to remediate asbestos contamination at Copper Tom Point on Lake Jindabyne has been delayed by wet weather.

Work was due to be completed by the end of February, and members of the public have been asked to avoid the area until the remediation works are complete.

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Contractors disturb asbestos at Berridale Public School

Asbestos found in NSW home as free testing widens in Mr Fluffy saga

The first property to test positive for loose-fill asbestos as part of the NSW government’s free testing program has been identified.

The property is located within the Berrigan Shire Council area, an agricultural area in the southern Riverina – halfway between Albury and Echuca.

It is the first home to provide a positive result since the NSW government began offering free voluntary roof insulation testing in August last year. So far, 630 tests across the state have been completed. The Berrigan property brings to 58 the number of NSW homes found to contain loose-fill asbestos. These include 14 houses and one block of 38 units in Queanbeyan, a home in the Yass Valley, one in Bungendore, one in Lithgow, one in Parramatta and one in Manly.

Three other affected homes have been demolished. All those properties were identified via historical records, prior to the positive Berrigan test.

Last August the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an independent investigation into the number of NSW properties affected by loose-fill asbestos supplied by two known companies, the ACT’s Mr Fluffy and a second contractor Bowsers Asphalt, which was targeting large non-residential buildings in NSW.

A spokesman for the NSW government said a technical assessment would now be conducted on the positive asbestos sample to try and determine its origin.

A total of 1752 properties across 26 NSW Local Government Areas have registered for the free testing program which will run until August.

The newly discovered home will also be subject to an asbestos assessment to advise owners whether the living spaces are adequately sealed and whether “asbestos pathways (are) appropriately controlled”.

The Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities said “testing of homes with loose-fill asbestos insulation has shown that exposure is likely to be very low if the asbestos is undisturbed and remains sealed off at all points where entry of asbestos into living areas can occur, including cornices, architraves, around vents, light fittings, manholes and the tops of cupboards.”

NSW residents who are living in homes built before 1980 can register online or call Service NSW to see if they are eligible to have their property tested.

In December, the NSW government announced an inquiry into the potential demolition of loose asbestos-affected homes, in line with action taken by the ACT government.

NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet also announced a financial assistance package for NSW residents who were confirmed to have Mr Fluffy in their homes, providing the same levels of assistance as in the ACT.

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Asbestos found in NSW home as free testing widens in Mr Fluffy saga

Indigenous leader criticises lack of warning about asbestos contamination on bush healing farm site

Rod Little near the government owned site reserved for an indigenous bush healing farm near Tidbinbilla.

Rod Little near the government owned site reserved for an indigenous bush healing farm near Tidbinbilla. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The chairman of the ACT’s elected indigenous body says he was not warned of asbestos contamination at the site of a bush healing farm his constituents have spent years fighting for.

The Ngunnawal bush healing farm, a specialised Indigenous drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, finally started construction two months ago, following a protracted legal battle that had stalled the project for years.

Last week, it was publicly revealed that asbestos contamination had been discovered at the site at Miowera, a property in the Tidbinbilla Valley, something the government says is common across development sites in the ACT.

ACT Health contacted the subcontractor and work was halted on the farm on December 2.


Local indigenous community leaders have long pushed for such a facility, arguing it is an essential place of healing needed to help the rehabilitation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the ACT.

Yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body chairman Rod Little said his organisation, which acts as a voice for indigenous people in the ACT, was not told of the asbestos problems. He said he only found out about the site’s contamination through news reports.

But the government says that other members of the elected body were informed of the contamination issues, even if Mr Little was not.

Health Minister Simon Corbell said the two members were told of the remediation at the site through their involvement on the advisory board for the project itself.

Mr Little now fears the contamination will push up costs and cause further delays to the farm, which he says is needed to help stop suffering within local communities.

“To only learn about the most recent developments in the paper, it’s concerning,” Mr Little said.

“We’ve been established … to have a relationship with the government about matters that impact on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.”

“The elected body represents the whole of the community, and this is a project which is supposed to benefit the whole of the community.”

Mr Corbell said the discovery of such asbestos was common across development sites in the ACT.

He said it was neither “unusual or exceptional” to find such contamination.

“ACT Health has established mechanisms to communicate with representatives of the ACT indigenous community,” he said.

“Regular information sharing and consultation with the indigenous community will continue as this project develops.”

Mr Little has urged the government to commit to the same number of beds as originally planned, even if the contamination drives up the costs of the project.

He’s also warned the government it should not delay looking at alternative sites if any rising costs make the site unviable.

The land was purchased by the government in 2008, but has faced repeated planning objections by neighbouring landowners.

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman used his call-in powers to override those objections in October with work beginning in November.

The asbestos contamination at the 320-hectare site was due to remnants of two bonded asbestos sheet houses that were razed in the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

Asbestos fencing has also been bulldozed over the years, leaving asbestos footings in the soil, while asbestos sheeting from the old Cotter Pub also remains, as does asbestos which has been dumped in a landfill gully.

Despite the contamination, ACT Health believes the exposure risk to workers and nearby landowners is “extremely low”.

“Its presence at the Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm site is being managed in an appropriate way, with an asbestos management plan in place,” Mr Corbell said.

“Remediation of bonded asbestos on site is part of the current tender package for this project.”

Mr Little said ACT Health first contacted him on Thursday afternoon.

He said it was important for the government to maintain communication with the indigenous elected body, which is currently in the process of negotiating a whole of government agreement.

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Indigenous leader criticises lack of warning about asbestos contamination on bush healing farm site

NSW Government should buy and demolish 5300 homes with Mr Fluffy insulation: report

Moving on: Chris and Charmaine Sims with their son Zac and daughter Alma. They are leaving Mr Fluffy behind after buying a new home in Kambah in the ACT.

Moving on: Chris and Charmaine Sims with their son Zac and daughter Alma. They are leaving Mr Fluffy behind after buying a new home in Kambah in the ACT. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

More than 5300 NSW homes may be riddled with deadly Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation and the state government should demolish and buy affected properties, a parliamentary report has found.

The findings, unanimously supported by government, Labor and crossbench MPs, leave the Baird government potentially facing a $5 billion bill should it follow the Australian Capital Territory government’s lead and buy back the homes.

Mr Fluffy is the former contractor that used loose-fill asbestos fibres for roof insulation in homes in Canberra and parts of NSW in the 1960s and 1970s. There are fears that the fibres pose acute health risks.

NSW authorities are investigating how many properties contain loose-fill insulation. The report said 59 homes have been identified so far “with the potential for there to be many hundreds more”.


PricewaterhouseCoopers has been commissioned to investigate the extent of Mr Fluffy fibres in NSW. An interim report said that, based on the firm’s installation capacity, up to 5376 homes may contain the insulation.

Using a different calculation, based on the distance between Canberra and affected NSW council areas, the assessors found up to 1110 homes may be affected. Their report said the discrepancy between the figures highlighted the need for further investigation.

The parliamentary report condemned “historic inaction of successive NSW governments in responding to this issue”. The gravity of evidence received by the inquiry promoted the report to be released two months earlier than expected.

It found the presence of loose-fill asbestos fibres rendered a home “ultimately uninhabitable”, posing risks to residents, visitors and the public.

The report recommended a statewide buy-back and demolition scheme for all affected residences, based on the ACT model.

The federal government is providing a concessional loan of up to $1 billion to the ACT to buy back and demolish about 1000 houses affected by Mr Fluffy. The NSW government may face a bill five times that, if the cost is extrapolated to the PricewaterhouseCoopers worst-case estimate.

The federal government has refused financial assistance to NSW, saying legal responsibility for affected homes lies with the state government.

The parliamentary report said owners of Mr Fluffy homes should be legally required to disclose that their home is affected, so prospective buyers are informed.

It also called for affected NSW properties to be tagged to protect tradespeople and emergency services workers. In the case where home occupants wished to immediately leave their homes, financial assistance for crisis accommodation and short-term remediation work should be provided, the report said.

Free ceiling inspections are presently available for NSW properties built before 1980 in areas thought to be affected. The report said such testing should be mandatory – potentially involving tens of thousands of homes.

Twenty-six NSW council areas have been identified as potentially affected by loose-fill asbestos. In Sydney, they include Manly, Parramatta, North Sydney, Ku-ring-gai, Bankstown, Warringah and The Hills councils.

A spokesman for Finance and Services Minister Dominic Perrottet said the government would consider the report.

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NSW Government should buy and demolish 5300 homes with Mr Fluffy insulation: report

Vivienne Westwood Tries To Give David Cameron Asbestos For Christmas

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has attempted to deliver asbestos as a Christmas present to David Cameron in a protest against fracking.

The 73-year-old, her son and a protester dressed as Santa Claus in a gas mask, turned up outside the gates of Downing Street with holding a clear box filled with the poisonous substance.

Westwood said she wanted to wish the PM a “merry fracking Christmas” but police did not allow the dubious gift to reach him.

vivienne westwood

Westwood with Santa

Westwood, who was also at Downing Street with her businessman son Joseph Corre, was campaigning about the alleged health risks linked to fracking, with the campaign Talk Fracking.

That Vivienne Westwood ‘Eat Less’ Row Has Just Become Even More Awkward
Westwood Blogs: Big Ag – “Eat Less”

Malcolm McLaren, Corre’s father, died of cancer due to asbestos, and his mother Westwood warned that the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique used to extract oil and gas could become “the next asbestos or thalidomide”.

After the box of asbestos was rejected, Westwood and her son delivered “independent medical reports” on the consequences of fracking to the PM.

vivienne westwood

Westwood got to Downing Street – but the “present” wasn’t allowed in

vivienne westwood

Westwood warned fracking could become “the next asbestos or thalidomide”.

Asked if she expected the Prime Minister to listen to their message, Westwood said: “Will David Cameron listen to us? He lost a child, he must have some sympathy, and he’s not connecting the dots.”

“They link very clearly the chemicals used in fracking industry to some really horrible, serious illnesses,” 47-year-old Corre said.

“Birth defects in children, horrible cancers, skin diseases, rashes, nosebleeds, stunted growth, all kinds of things.

“We are lucky to have this information in advance from the terrible situation that his happening right now in the United States.

“We have the opportunity now, and I hope David Cameron takes it, to put an end to what could be something quite disastrous for the UK.

“David Cameron has no democratic mandate to be pushing this through on to the British people. This is something the entire country is going to start waking up to.”

The protest came after New York state governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced yesterday that it would ban fracking after a report concluded that it poses potential health risks.

Corre said that his inspiration for taking a stance against fracking was his father’s death from cancer aged 64.

“He died a really horrible death. It was quite something and I wouldn’t want to wish that on to anybody or anybody’s family.”

The protesters claimed that chief scientific adviser Professor Sir Mark Walport warned in his annual report that the Government has not given proper consideration to the potential health risks of fracking.

But Walport denied that the view that fracking could be the next asbestos or thalidomide should be attributed to him.
Rather, it was the view of another author, Andy Stirling, who contributed an evidence document to the annual report.

Sir Mark said: “With regard to fracking, the hydraulic fracturing of shale to obtain natural gas and oil, I fully endorse the report of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

“Of course, methane is a fossil fuel, but as long as it is burned efficiently and fugitive emissions of methane gas are minimised, it is a less harmful fossil fuel than coal and oil, and is an important way-station on the global journey towards low-carbon energy.

“The scientific evidence is clear that any environmental or geological risks can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced through effective regulation.”

Downing Street declined to respond to Ms Westwood’s comments about Cameron’s son.

Asbestos payout scheme 'does not go far enough'

Campaigners for Hampshire victims of asbestos exposure have welcomed a controversial scheme that will land victims an average of £126,000 compensation but say the measures do not go far enough.

Payouts to people diagnosed with mesothelioma, or the families of those who have died, are on course to reach £32m in their first year.

The scheme was launched earlier this year, aimed at helping victims unable to trace the employer who exposed them to the deadly asbestos dust, but critics say it is the product of a “cynical deal” between insurers and the Government.

Figures in Hampshire, particularly Southampton, Eastleigh and Gosport, are well above the average number of deaths caused by the condition.

Lynne Squibb, co-founder of Hampshire Asbestos Support and Awareness Group, said the scheme would help victims but criticised its shortcomings.

She says one of the main problems is that only victims diagnosed after July 2012 will receive payouts, denying help to huge numbers of cases.

Lynne said: “We were incredibly disappointed that it only covers mesothelioma, and it doesn’t cover people whose husbands worked with asbestos or self-employed people either. It’s not perfect and we are undertaking to work with the Government to help ensure that the scheme improves.”

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, typically the lungs. It can take 40 years to develop after exposure – but then kills within nine months, on average.

Hampshire is a renowned black-spot, because asbestos was used in shipbuilding, construction and the automotive industry.

Southampton Itchen MP John Denham said: “I think it’s long overdue.

“I am pleased that it [the money] has been coming through and it has been a long struggle for money that could have helped to ease people at a very difficult time at the end of their lives.”

By October, after seven months of the scheme, 232 applications had been received and 131 payments made, totalling £16.5m.

Mark Harper, the minister for disabled people, said the total amount that insurers were expected to pay out in 2014-15 was £32m, based on the first payments.

He said: “I am proud of what Government and stakeholders have achieved in delivering the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme.”

Nearly 2,400 people, mostly men, die from mesothelioma every year.

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Asbestos payout scheme 'does not go far enough'