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A Royal Pain – Britain’s $243 million dollar asbestos problem
£150 million. That’s how much British authorities say it will cost to remove all the asbestos embedded in Buckingham Palace and make other badly needed repairs to the royal households, including the central London palace that is home to Queen Elizabeth II. That’s more than $243 million in American dollars! Not only is the price of abatement high, but the work is estimated to take another fifteen to twenty years to complete and has already cost over £1 million since it was begun several years ago.
What needs to be done? In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Buckingham Palace underwent significant upgrades and remodeling, including modernization of its heating, plumbing and electrical systems. Unfortunately, those were prime years for incorporation of the fibrous mineral asbestos in padded and panel-type insulation for heating ducts, in pipe-covering for plumbing and steam lines, and in fabric-coated wiring for electrical lines. Workers have already ripped out asbestos flooring in the south wing of the Queen’s estate at a cost of £800,000, the equivalent of $1.2 million in U.S. dollars.
Buckingham Palace isn’t just home to Her Royal Highness, the Queen of England. The 300-year-old abode is also the administrative headquarters of the entire Monarchy. There are dozens of offices employing hundreds of staff. In addition, the buildings play host to many state events, as well as meetings by and with the Prime Minister. Buckingham Palace is also a national tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year from all over the world. Officials have assured the Queen that careful records are being kept of the asbestos abatement work and that all necessary safety precautions are being taken to protect the health of employees, renovation workers and the visiting public.
One would think that such a venerated national landmark would have undergone an update or two in the last fifty years. Yet according to the British Broadcasting Company, no improvements to the heating, ventilation or plumbing systems, nor even to the décor in its 775 rooms, have occurred inside the royal residence since 1952. Faded drapes and dilapidated furnishings do not conjure images of a royal lifestyle suited to England’s revered monarch. But such is the setting in which Her Majesty has resided for more than half a century.
Left alone, asbestos poses little health threat. It can be dangerous, though, when it becomes friable, that is, crumbling and fragmenting, which releases microscopic asbestos fibers into the air that can be ingested or breathed by anyone nearby. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to diseases such as lung cancer and the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma. With the mechanical systems at the palace so very ancient, decomposing asbestos insulation is now presenting a significant threat, hence the decision to remove all that disintegrating fiber.
Cranegates, Ltd., a licensed asbestos company with locations throughout England, has been contracted to do the abatement work at Buckingham Palace and the other royal residences. Besides their own scheduled asbestos work, Cranegates’ contract specifies that they respond within two hours to any emergency asbestos contamination which might be caused by other contractors working on palace renovations. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please contact the lawyers at Baron & Budd so that we, too, may offer immediate assistance. We want to help. Call 855-280-7664 or complete our contact form for a completely confidential evaluation.
Like 300-year-old Buckingham Palace, the longevity of asbestos poses serious problems. Thank goodness a solution to remediate the danger in the Queen’s home is now underway.