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Complainant Name:
Michael Lees

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Daily Mail


Michael Lees complained that the newspaper had published a number of inaccuracies in an article which claimed that the dangers posed by asbestos in schools have been "grossly exaggerated". The complainant considered that the article had misrepresented the risks of white asbestos products, the substance of an Advertising Standards Authority ruling against the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the findings of an HSE report on the risks to health from asbestos exposure, and the particular risks posed by the presence of the more harmful types of asbestos materials in many schools. In general, the complainant considered that the article had been dangerously misleading. The complainant also strongly objected to a reference to the death of his late wife.


The complaint was resolved when the newspaper wrote a private apology to the complainant acknowledging their error and insensitivity in the reference to his wife's death. They also published the following correction, in the newspaper and in its online edition:

In a controversial article, The Great Asbestos Hysteria (Mail, February 23), we said that according to the Health and Safety Executive, the risks from white asbestos products are ‘insignificant', and ‘arguably zero' in the case of lung cancer.

The HSE assessments related to specific levels of exposure to white asbestos fibres, not white asbestos products, and found a risk from higher levels.

The article said that asbestos in UK schools is almost all white. According to the HSE, the more harmful brown asbestos was also frequently used in schools.

The writer was in error in saying that the HSE had been forced to withdraw a series of commercials claiming that mesothelioma kills 4,500 a year.

In fact, the advertisements were based on an estimate of 4,000 deaths from all asbestos-related disease.

Date Published: 28/10/2010

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