Alice Mahon’s Death Must Prompt Asbestos Action, Says Son

Former MP Alice Mahon passed away from malignant mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure, prompting her son, Kris, to advocate for the removal of asbestos from all buildings to safeguard lives.

Asbestos is a hazardous material that can cause cancer and is a leading cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Alice Mahon, known for her political activism and alliance with Jeremy Corbyn, had campaigned for asbestos victims and supported calls for a public inquiry into asbestos-related diseases among power industry workers. She believed she was exposed to asbestos during her time as an auxiliary nurse and during her 17 years in Parliament.

Kris witnessed the devastating impact of mesothelioma on his mother and neighbors, and he emphasizes the need for proactive action to locate and remove asbestos to protect lives. Asbestos remains present in numerous buildings across the UK, and MPs from various parties have called for stronger measures to eliminate it, although the process can be complex and costly. Last year, the Commons Work and Pensions Committee proposed a 40-year deadline for the removal of all asbestos from public and commercial buildings.

Mesothelioma UK, a charity, advocates for a register of workplaces containing asbestos and a timetable for its eradication, particularly in high-risk settings like schools and hospitals. Kris Mahon and Mesothelioma UK urge the government to prioritize asbestos removal rather than leaving it in place, as deteriorating buildings or renovations can lead to uncontrolled asbestos release. In 2019, there were over 5,000 asbestos-related deaths, including mesothelioma cases.

Kris, a professor of law residing in New Zealand, stresses the government's duty to protect lives from asbestos and calls for proactive measures to identify and remove the substance. Parliament's maintenance services team identified asbestos in 680 rooms across the parliamentary estate, although the risk is deemed low and managed appropriately. However, the Public Accounts Committee reported health and safety incidents, including asbestos-related issues, within Parliament.

Kris asserts that every workplace, including historic buildings like the Palace of Westminster, should be safe, and asbestos should have been identified and removed by now. He suggests conducting a detailed audit of the risks alongside refurbishment efforts. The UK Health Security Agency advises against removing asbestos without expert guidance and encourages contacting local councils for information on its safe removal and disposal.

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