Tenants, Residents and Workers gathered outside the offices of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) today to demand a full independent investigation into the extent of asbestos in GHA properties. In a demonstration organised by the Glasgow Home Owners (GHO) group and the Scottish Tenants Organisation (STO), GHA were condemned for failing to provide adequate information about asbestos in their buildings and exposing tenants, residents (home-owners) and workers to the deadly airborne disease.
Six people (two tenants, two residents and two workers) are currently preparing legal actions regarding exposure to asbestos in GHA properties. Fears were expressed about widespread exposure to asbestos in GHA properties across the city - potentially involving tens of thousands of people.
After Housing Stock Transfer in 2003, Glasgow City Council transferred 83,000 homes to Glasgow Housing Association ownership, the largest transfer in the UK. After a massive demolition programme, and second-stage transfer to smaller Housing associations, GHA now retains 60,000 homes. Sean Clerkin, Chair of the Glasgow Home Owners group, said the group were demanding an independent investigation into all major works on GHA properties since 2005. He said they were also demanding the immediate release of the Babcock Scientific Survey (2006-2009), which did a sample survey on 8,000 GHA properties, and which he said had since been “hidden” by GHA.
The group are demanding that GHA informs all tenants in a clear and transparent manner about the locations and danger associated with asbestos in GHA properties. As the Herald recently reported, The Glasgow Housing Association Inspection Report carried out in 2007 by the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) said GHA, “had not fully assessed asbestos risk as it has not identified the condition or types of asbestos present in all of its common areas … In summary, GHA does not meet its statutory and regulatory requirements on gas safety and managing asbestos, and this is a major weakness”.
The European Union has banned all use of asbestos and the extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products. Most asbestos fibres are invisible to the human eye. Asbestosis, the most common disease associated with exposure to asbestos, is caused by inhalation of fibres over a period of time. This is especially a problem when asbestos is disturbed. Posters and Banners in the demonstration pointed to the personal exposure of tenants, residents and workers to asbestos. Some contractors employed by GHA to carry out a massive renovations programme stood accused of “cutting corners” and failing to follow safety procedures. All kitchens and bathrooms in GHA properties are due to be refitted, with much of the work already done, meaning that many may have been exposed to deadly asbestos unknowingly.
Mr.Mcpherson, a member of the Glasgow Home Owners group from Pollock, and former campaigner with Clydeside Action on Asbestos, said that he had ”grim experience” of losing family and friends to asbestos. “No-one can dispute the effects of asbestos...Glasgow Housing Association [GHA] must know about the extent of the asbestos problem they inherited from Glasgow City Council [GCC]...tenants must be informed of asbestos problems by GHA as a matter of urgency”. Mr.Moore, also from Glasgow Home Owners group and Pollock, said his GHA building was “riddled” with asbestos. Mr.Moore had also seen friends pass away due to the” invisible illness”, asbestos. “That’s why I’m here”, he said, “in solidarity”. He said that GHA had never informed tenants about asbestos in his building, and related a story about a joiner who did some work in his home with a mask to protect himself from asbestos while Mr.Moore himself went without one in his own home - with no information from GHA. These kinds of problems should have been eradicated in the dim and distant past. The health problems associated with asbestos are by now notorious. GHA have a duty to reveal the extent of asbestos in its properties to tenants and residents, and this should be met immediately.