Report: UK Navy Vessels May All Contain Traces of Life-Threatening Asbestos
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The United Kingdom's Royal Navy vessels may reportedly all contain asbestos, a dangerous substance that can lead to lung diseases if inhaled over long periods of time.
Citing a letter sent from UK Minister of State for Defense Procurement James Cartlidge to the Labour Party, UK media reported that all four of the UK’s Vanguard-class of submarines, which are equipped with Trident ballistic missiles and carry the UK's nuclear deterrent, have asbestos-containing materials.
The report also added that the submarines had completed a six-month tour, a record amount of time spent underwater.
The Daring-class Type 45 destroyers and the Duke-class Type 23 frigates, as well as an Astute-class nuclear-powered submarines, six Duke-class minesweepers and 28 Wildcat helicopters are said to also have asbestos-containing materials.
UK Shadow Secretary of State for Defense John Healey told the newspaper that the findings were "alarming," adding that "ministers have serious questions to answer about sailors’ exposure to asbestos while they fly the flag for Britain at sea."
The outlet also quoted a UK Defense Ministry spokesperson as saying "the safety of our service personnel is our highest priority and the fleet remains safe to deploy on global operations."
The official further stated there were plans to "eliminate asbestos in our equipment as soon as possible, with risk assessments undertaken to keep our sailors protected," before adding that "the presence of asbestos containing materials in itself does not create a health risk."
"Where asbestos remains in equipment, risk assessments have been undertaken in line with Health and Safety Executive guidance to ensure the highest level of protection for our people," the official was quoted as saying.
The newspaper reported last week that the UK Defense Ministry had acknowledged that as many as 2,699 pieces of its military hardware contain asbestos. The equipment includes 765 Bulldog armored personnel carriers, 324 Challenger 2 tanks, 841 Pinzgauer military utility vehicles and 540 Warrior infantry fighting vehicles.
Asbestos is a group of minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion. Because of these properties, asbestos has been used in commercial products such as insulation and fireproofing materials, automotive brakes, and wallboard materials. It is also a very hazardous substance which, after years of exposure, can cause severe scarring of the lungs or cancer.
Some 5,000 people die in the UK a year from asbestos-related diseases, the report said.