Professor Beddington's report will let the great asbestos scam continue



The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Prof Sir John Beddington, has given the green light to the white asbestos scam, says Christopher Booker.

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. This scare story, which not only defies all the best scientific evidence but also the earlier findings of the Government’s own advisers, has become the basis for rackets costing hundreds of millions of pounds a year in bogus insurance claims and fraudulent contractors’ charges for work which is unnecessary.

Predictably, Prof Beddington’s team not only tiptoed round the scientific evidence but played as a trump card the fact that white asbestos is classified by the World Health Organisation as a “Class 1 carcinogen”. What they omitted to say, of course, is that the same list includes such things as alcohol, leather, nickel and sunshine. Do we expect bans on sunbathing and the nickel coins in our pockets? Of course not, because the risks they pose depend entirely on the nature of exposure. The same applies to white asbestos encapsulated in cement – 90 per cent of all asbestos products – the risk from which even the Government itself once rightly recognised as “virtually zero”. Well done, Sir John. Let the scams continue.

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