top of page


(Asbestos Cement)

The regulation of work on and disposal of Chrysotile (Asbestos Cement) (March 2015)

Left: Fly tipped Chrysotile roofing sheets discarded in a field gateway off the B482 Marlow Road.

Background of Bryan's involvement with Chrysotile

The Partnership owns or rents grain stores and farm buildings at five different farmsteads, many of which have asbestos cement roofs, while some of the Partnership’s workshop buildings are lined with hard encapsulated lining boards containing chrysotile white asbestos. 

Bryan’s interest in the disposal of end of life asbestos cement roofing sheets off agricultural barns originated from a paper presented in April 2007 by the Environment Agency’s Principal Officer for Land Quality to the Thames Region REPAC Committee which drew attention to the Hazardous Waste Controls for Agriculture which were about to be introduced in May 2007. Bryan then looked into the science relating to asbestos cement, and convened a Conference to Investigate the Science Relating to Asbestos Cement Products in April 2008 which took place at NFU Agriculture House, Eynsham, Oxford in April 2008. It then became apparent that these new regulations would involve a farmer, when re-roofing a barn roofed with asbestos cement sheets, having to register with the Environment Agency as a ‘Producer of Hazardous Waste’ and having to dispose of the end of life asbestos cement roofing sheets in Hazardous Waste Landfill Sites regulated by the Environment Agency. Research showed that there was no measurable risk to the health of workers handling asbestos cement, and that therefore the new regulations would involve considerable costs and administrative burdens, as well as the unnecessary filling of hazardous waste landfill sites, without any benefit. In a DVD recorded on high definition video on 10th July 2012 and produced by Ian E Sparrowhawk of High Wycombe, Bryan is interviewed by Nikki Vella in the Kensham Farms office on the subject of disposal of end of life asbestos cement. Bryan explains the steps which he took to alert those UK politicians responsible for the interpretation of European Directives on waste disposal to the problems. In particular Bryan describes the significance of the histogram charts from the UK Health & Safety Commission’s Risk Assessment paper HSC/06/55 published in July 2006 entitled ‘A Comparison of the Risks from different materials containing Asbestos’.

201604 Fig 2 of HSC-06-55 (with captions

Risk Analysis from the Health & Safety Commission paper HSC/06/55 showing annual risk of death per million workers from working with different asbestos containing materials. 

Spray and other insulation and Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB) are the two columns in red on the left, asbestos cement is highlighted as causing 0.8 deaths per million workers.

As a sequel to the recorded interview shown above, Bryan Edgley has prepared a “Progress Report on the Requested Revision of Asbestos Regulation in the UK” made up to 4th March 2015 in consultation with Dr John Hoskins FRSC C.Chem the full text of which is shown below:- 

Progress Report on the Requested Revision of Asbestos Regulation in the UK made up to 4th March 2015, for Steve Baker MP FRSA by Bryan K Edgley MBE FRSA in consultation with Dr John Hoskins FRSC C.Chem 

Asbestos Regulations that result in unnecessary costs to property owners without either protecting the health of workers or saving lives. Preface The word “Asbestos” is a generic term covering different types of naturally occurring fibrous silicates, the main categories being:- 


  1. Amphiboles which are iron silicates, insoluble in the acid of the lung. Of these Amosite (“brown” asbestos) and Crocidolite (“blue” asbestos) were mined extensively until the 1970s, at which time the danger to human health following inhalation of the sharp needle like fibres of these amphibole forms of asbestos into the lung was recognised, and its further mining and use in most countries of the world was banned. 

  2. Chrysotile (“white” asbestos) which is a magnesium silicate mineral with compressed soft fibres that are soluble in the acid of the human lung. Chrysotile is still mined on a large scale in Russia, China, Brazil and Kazakhstan, and is still used commercially as reinforcement for cement and aggregate to manufacture asbestos cement and similar products used in most countries other than the UK and Europe. In 1999 EU and UK legislation was enacted banning the future sale and use of all products containing white asbestos. This ban did not differentiate between (i) the dangerous amphibole forms of asbestos used prior to the 1970’s for insulation and fire retardant spray applications, and (ii) chrysotile, still widely used in other countries in the manufacture of white asbestos cement without presenting any risk to health.  These differences are recognised in the findings of the Health & Safety Commission paper published in July 2006 under reference HSC/06/55 entitled “A Comparison of Risks from Different Materials Containing Asbestos” 

Publications concerning adverse effects of UK Asbestos Regulations 

An article published in the Sunday Telegraph in 2002 exposed the massive deception by which the adverse properties of the amphibole forms of asbestos (”blue” and “brown” asbestos), which can be harmful to human health when inhaled into the lungs, have been attributed to chrysotile (“white asbestos”) which is used in the manufacture of building products such as asbestos cement, a product that makes up over 90% of all asbestos used in the UK. The book ‘Scared to Death’ written by Christopher Booker in collaboration with Richard North (published in 2007 by Continuum US) exposed the deliberate deception by vested interests to confuse the hazardous blue and brown asbestos types with the totally different mineral, white asbestos. This powerful lobby has influenced Government policy for its own benefit, against the public interest, with even the most senior of officials and MPs at Westminster, as well as the HSE and the Judiciary, being taken in by the deception. 

1999 Change of Government Policy 

This deception caused new regulation covering the use and disposal of white asbestos and its products to be introduced into the UK in 1999, thereby altering the Government’s pre 1997 official policy.  The pre 1997 policy had been based on peer reviewed research papers that showed asbestos cement caused no measurable risk to human health.  Yet 9 months after the Labour Government was elected the same materials were claimed by the lobby’s MPs in Parliament to kill up to 10,000 workers per year. The HSE, which claimed that ‘white asbestos cement’ had caused an epidemic of worker mortality, has been unable to provide any science that indicated the original HSE policy, that asbestos cement and similar products‘ are not harmful to human health’, was incorrect. 

Lack of evidence of Risk to Human Health 

The HSE cannot provide any evidence to show that white asbestos cement products have ever been the cause of an asbestos related disease. Furthermore no HSE officers will disclose the names of those being used by the HSE as experts, nor the names of the authors of Ministerial and other responses to pertinent questions, all of which have followed the same format of avoidance of any clear answers.  The HSE was asked to provide one of the principal speakers for a conference convened by the NFU ‘Investigating the Science Relating to Asbestos Cement Products’ in April 2008 but refused to provide a delegate on hearing that such an HSE speaker would have to share the platform with the joint authors of this Progress Report. 

The Classification of Class 1A Carcinogens 

One of the main standard responses by the HSE and Government officials to  justify  this presumption of lethal risk is to state, albeit correctly, that white asbestos is classified as a Class 1A Carcinogen, “the worst kind” according to HSE officers.  However the reason why Chrysotile is in this list is that raw Chrysotile has the “theoretical potential to be hazardous to human health”.   In reality this is not a measurement or assessment of actual risk to health.   As we know from published research papers no measurable risks to health arise from using or working with asbestos cement.  There are many other materials in common use in the same Class 1A Carcinogen list, such as alcohol, sunlight, sawdust, leather, chromium, oral contraceptives, polyvinyl chloride and nickel coins,  which have not been banned. Concerning building materials, asbestos cement is no more of a risk to health than any other cement based cladding materials, which include the concrete tiles that cover over 80% of UK homes and the non asbestos fibres now used on commercial properties in corrugated sheeting. 

Substitutes for Chrysotile 

The alternative materials now used instead of white asbestos cement have never been properly tested to show that they are safer. In fact in the case of the non asbestos cement cladding, described in the building trade as ‘mineral cement sheets’, there is evidence indicating that this product has the potential to be a genuine risk to health. 


During the 13 years since this scam was first exposed, private companies, property owners, and local authorities have been sued for very large claims as compensation for alleged asbestos disease, in particular Mesothelioma, and have also had to pay huge sums for the unnecessary removal of any asbestos or asbestos containing manufactured products. Mesothelioma is a painful and incurable cancer, which can be caused by the sharp needle like fibres of the amphibole forms of asbestos (“blue” and “brown” asbestos), which are insoluble in acid, penetrating the wall of the lung, thereby irritating the mesothelium which surrounds the lung – sometimes many years or even decades after the amphibole fibres were first inhaled into the lung.  But asbestos cement is manufactured with chrysotile (“white” asbestos) which consists of soft fibres, soluble in the acid of the lung, to reinforce the cement and aggregate base of asbestos cement, and has never been shown to have caused mesothelioma.  The claim made by some health claims lawyers that all cases of mesothelioma are the result of exposure to asbestos fibres are incorrect, in that mesothelioma can occur naturally without any exposure to the amphibole forms of asbestos. 

The £300 million Compensation Fund 

In July 2012 the UK Government  Department for Work and Pensions announced a fund of £300m support for future mesothelioma victims to be financed through the Association of British Insurers (ABI) for victims who have contracted mesothelioma but have no former liable employer, or employers’ liability insurer, against whom the victim can make a claim. In the Government  ‘Notes to Editors’ at the foot of the press release announcing this new scheme  it is stated that:- 

“1. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, notably the lungs, and almost always arises from exposure to asbestos”. 

“2. The long time that mesothelioma takes to develop means that some workers were negligently exposed to asbestos at work but their employers are no longer in existence to make a claim against”. 

It would perhaps have been more objective and fair to employers, including farmers, if Government had noted in its press release :- 

Under note 1 – That it is only the amphibole forms of asbestos that can cause mesothelioma, and that no case of mesothelioma has ever been proved to have been caused by the chrysotile form of asbestos.  Furthermore that the annual risk of death from workplace activities is less than one death per million from work with asbestos cement, whereas the annual risk of death from work with spray and other insulation (containing the amphibole form of asbestos) is 1,903 workers per million (see the Health & Safety Commission paper HSC/06/55) and that more than 90% of the asbestos ever installed was chrysotile. Under Note 2 – That an employer who had followed all current Government protocols for safety at work can retrospectively be deemed to have been negligent now that Government has subsequently revised and changed those protocols.

However it would seem that this apparently sensible idea of a compensation fund is not being administered to best effect, in that up to 60% of the compensation fund would appear to be benefiting those health claims lawyers who act for the victims. Lord Freud, the Welfare Minister responsible for this policy, is unwilling to explain how administration of this important fund was gifted to small private law firms to distribute.  It is apparently on record that over 700 of such law firms had been prosecuted for fraud in the past for the misappropriation of a £7 billion miners’ compensation fund in 2008. 

An Example Case of Hardship to an Employer 

One of the current cases on which Asbestos Watchdog (a ‘not-for-profit’ advisory bureau) has been asked to advise is due to come before the Court in the near future.  It concerns a well established family building business with around 100 employees at the present time.   A former apprentice who is suffering from an alleged asbestos mesothelioma has made a claim following his exposure to asbestos cement gutters being transported in the van which he drove for the firm in 1965.  The victim’s lawyers, a firm that had lobbied for the 1999 ban as one of its sponsors, are now claiming that the mesothelioma from which this now retired worker is unfortunately suffering was caused by that exposure to asbestos cement forty years ago, and is suing his former employer for £300,000.   Three other former workers in that building firm are awaiting the outcome before they also make their own claims. In this particular case the insurance company that covered third party and employers liability risks for the firm in the 1960s is no longer in business, so that if the claim is upheld by the Court it threatens to bankrupt and close down the firm, which trades as a limited liability company.  The methods of handling asbestos cement which the firm used in 1965 would not have breached the present day asbestos regulations.  Furthermore the evidence that the claimant’s disease was ever caused by asbestos has not been established. It is hoped that this case will be tried before a Court rather than being settled out of Court, so that the Court can examine thoroughly the scientific evidence provided by the firm’s lawyers to the effect that this exposure to asbestos cement gutters could not have been the cause of the claimant’s mesothelioma.  If this case is successfully defended it would also expose the huge errors of judgement by the Court in earlier asbestos claims where mesothelioma had erroneously been found to have been caused by white asbestos cement. The implications if the Court should uphold this case are clear.  Even if companies or farmers diligently obey the protocols for safety of employees working with asbestos cement, or merely ask the worker to work in a building within which asbestos cement components had been used as a construction material, then the adherence to present day regulations will not provide defence for future claims for negligence from alleged asbestos victims. 

Overseas Legislation on the use of Asbestos Cement 

Thailand, Sri Lanka, Peru and Vietnam have all rejected attempts by the lobby of vested interests to ban the use and continuing manufacture of products containing chrysotile asbestos. Over 2 million tonnes pa of chrysotile is still mined for the manufacture of asbestos cement products, without harm to the health of those mining and factory workers. The USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposed a total ban on any further importing or use of asbestos or asbestos containing materials in July 1989, on the grounds that asbestos was a carcinogen.  However in October 1991 the USA Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the EPA’s ban as being unlawful, and the ban on use in USA was annulled. The ban asbestos lobby in India was prosecuted for perjury after the lobby had claimed that white asbestos was killing 3,000 workers per annum when in actual fact there had been no deaths in India caused by white asbestos. In the EU, 51 MEPs voted against a Resolution in 2013 calling for the removal of all asbestos containing materials that were in use within Europe, so no action will be taken before 2028. 

New (March 2015) Legislation for the Removal of all Asbestos Cement Roofing in the Netherlands

The most recent announcement has been made on 3rd March 2015 (the day prior to the authors’ completion of this Progress report) to the effect that the Netherlands Cabinet has agreed with the Dutch State Secretary Wilma Mansfeld’s (infrastructure and Environment) proposal to ban all asbestos roofs in the Netherlands from 2024.  The Government in Holland is making a subsidy plan available, to start on 1st January 2016, to subsidise this work for which it has allocated a fund of 75 million Euros.  Since ‘asbestos roofs’ are made with chrysotile asbestos cement it is clear that this new ban will not save any lives, and that it will be a pointless exercise, other than to provide employment in the waste removal and roofing industries and to increase sales of alternative roofing materials.  This ban has followed lobbying by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), a lobbying body set up and administered by Laurie Kazan-Allen, the sister of one of the USA’s most successful health claims lawyers. The implications for UK agriculture are huge, in that if the UK Government were to follow the Dutch lead, then every British asbestos cement barn roof would have to be re-roofed with the alternative less durable material known as ‘Mineral Cement’.


A full enquiry into this dishonest lobby in the UK by vested interests should be ordered by Government, with a remit to expose the methods used by the lobby, and to expose the false science behind claims that chrysotile can cause a risk to health in a similar way to the dangerous amphibole forms of asbestos.  If such an enquiry is not ordered then Government funds will be wasted, innocent businesses will continue to suffer, and genuine victims of mesothelioma caused by the amphibole forms of asbestos will be denied a fair share of the available compensation. 

BKE & JH 4th March 2015   

Biographical note of authors:- 

The author of this Progress report, Bryan K Edgley MBE FRSA, is a past Chairman of the South Buckinghamshire and Middlesex Branch of the National Farmers Union, and served for eight years from 2002 until 2010 on the Regional Environmental Protection Advisory Committee (REPAC) of the UK Environment Agency for the Thames Region, representing the NFU and the Agricultural Industry.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and was honoured with the award of MBE in 2011 for his work for Agriculture and the Community in Buckinghamshire.  

He has farmed at Kensham Farm Cadmore End, near High Wycombe , Buckinghamshire since 1955, now in partnership with his son Charlie Edgley assisted by his grandson Alex Nelms BSc.  The land farmed by the Partnership extends to 2,500 acres, on which the main crop is milling wheat.  The partnership owns or rents grain stores and farm buildings at five different farmsteads, many of which have asbestos cement roofs, while some of the Partnership’s workshop buildings are lined with hard encapsulated lining boards containing chrysotile white asbestos. Through his work on the REPAC Committee the author’s attention was drawn to the new Hazardous Waste Controls for Agriculture would be introduced in 2007 into the UK, and that for the first time work on, or disposal of, asbestos cement roofing sheets would become controlled as being within the scope of these controls on hazardous materials.  The author then convened a conference in April 2008 at NFU Agriculture House, Eynsham, Oxfordshire to ‘Investigate the Science Relating to Asbestos Cement Products’.  Invitations were extended to three principal speakers, these being Dr John Hoskins and Professor John Bridle (whose respective CVs are shown below) and a speaker to be appointed by the Health & Safety Executive.  The author’s serious concerns were raised when the HSE refused to provide a speaker to share a platform with these two leading experts on the subject.  The author’s subsequent work on the Regulation and Disposal of Asbestos Cement has included production of a DVD (running time of 33 minutes) which may be seen on under the heading of ‘Farm Topics’ in which he explained the significance of the Health and Safety Commission paper HSC/06/55.

Dr. John Hoskins M.Tech.(Brunnel), Ph.D.(ANU), FRSC, C.Chem is an independent toxicologist specialising in the toxicology of mineral fibres. He is a member of the British Association for Lung Research, of the British Occupational Hygiene Society and the Society of Inhalation Toxicologists. In his final years before retirement Dr. Hoskins was in charge of in vivo inhalation studies using custom built high containment chambers.  The work concentrated on studies on natural and synthetic fibres and aimed to relate short term inhalation studies to lifetime carcinogenicity tests.  He is the author, or co-author, of over 100 scientific publications and several books, and from 1994 until 2009 was editor of the journal ‘Indoor & Built Environment’. Dr. Hoskins was awarded a doctorate for his work in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University in Canberra and subsequently worked for the UK Medical Research Council on fibre and particle toxicology and as a specialist adviser to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and was Chairman (1995-1997) of the Society’s Toxicology Group.

Professor John Bridle worked in the asbestos industry from 1961 until 1993.  In recent years he has been active in promoting the safe use and handling of white asbestos materials. His work was recognised in 2005 by the award of an Honorary Professorship by the Occupational Health Council of the Russian Academy of Medical Science. In his capacity as the Senior Inspector of the Asbestos Watchdog UK, he has worked closely with the Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker, whose book ‘Scared to Death’, devotes a whole chapter to ‘The Great Asbestos Scam – One Fibre can Kill’.  He has briefed foreign governments on the political and financial consequences consequent on the implementation of a total ban on white asbestos, and is internationally accepted as one of the leading experts on the subject. He has presented papers on asbestos in Moscow, Montreal, Quebec, New Delhi, Bangkok, Mexico City and Lisbon as well as in London and South Wales.

Contact Bryan Edgley at the Kensham Farm office for further details of his work on asbestos cement.

bottom of page