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BBC Investigation Into M&S Asbestos "Shocking - But Not Surprising"

LONDON, February 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

A BBC investigation has claimed that high street giant Marks & Spencer was warned that its customers and staff may have been put at risk from asbestos contamination more than 10 years before being fined £1m for breaching asbestos removal rules.

In the "Inside Out" programme, screened on Monday 11 February, one contractor told a BBC journalist that he had raised the alarm over the way asbestos was being removed during a London store refurbishment in 1998, more than a decade before the company was fined £1m over work carried out at its Reading store.

Bridget Collier, head of the Industrial disease department at Fentons Personal Injury Solicitors LLP, said the report, whilst shocking, is not entirely surprising.

"We have heard several reports of maintenance workers carrying out refits and refurbishments for retailers - not just M&S - and having their warnings about asbestos being completely ignored," said Bridget, a partner with the firm.

"While the majority of any exposure risk during such refurbishments is borne by those carrying out the work, it is obviously of great concern if asbestos is being disturbed or broken up to cause fibres to circulate in areas where workers and even customers might be exposed.

"We have represented a number of clients who have developed asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma and other lung conditions, who have never worked in the industry sectors where one might expect them to have been exposed to asbestos," she said. "In these instances, we have later found that they were exposed whilst their work premises - be it a shop floor, warehouse or even a hospital wing - were undergoing major renovations and the correct, safe asbestos-handling procedures were simply not being followed.

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