International Ban Asbestos Secretariat claims banned HSE advert 'if anything underestimated' number of deaths caused by asbestos exposure

An anti-asbestos group has hit out at the Advertising Standards Authority's ruling that an advert aimed at highlighting the danger of the substance to building workers was “exaggerating”.

The government agency banned the Health and Safety Executive's advert, which claimed that about 4,000 people died each year between 2004 and 2006 because of asbestos exposure, after a complaint that it overestimated the danger to modern workers, as many of the deaths included in the figures occurred as a result of exposure to the fibres a long time ago.

The ASA banned the adverting campaign, saying it, “could mislead by presenting as definitive figures those that were, in part, based on estimates”.

But the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat said it was “appalled” by the ruling, and claimed the figures stated in the advert were, “if anything, an under-estimate.”

Laurie Kazan-Allen, the body's coordinator, said: “The decision will be used by global asbestos producers as proof that warnings issued by the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer over the use of asbestos have been exaggerated.”