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“Misinformed”, “substantially misleading” and “absurd” – the UK government’s verdict on Christopher Booker’s claims

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The Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker has been taking some flack this week over his latest bogus claims on global warming. This in turn has triggered renewed scrutiny of Booker’s denialism on other issues – particularly his assertions about white asbestos, which I examine in “Don’t Get Fooled Again”.

I thought it might be useful to collate some of the responses to Booker’s articles over the years from the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive. Most are letters to the editor, correcting false statements that Booker has made about the HSE and its work. Only the first appears to have been accepted by the Sunday Telegraph for publication – the newspaper usually refuses to print letters which contradict Booker’s bogus claims.

Christopher Booker’s articles on the dangers of white asbestos (Notebook, Jan 13, 27, Feb 10) are misinformed and do little to increase public understanding of a very important occupational health issue.

-Timothy Walker, Director General, Health & Safety Executive, February 2002

The articles in the Sunday Telegraph by Christopher Booker entitled “Fatal cracks appear in asbestos scam as HSE shifts its ground” and “Booker wins asbestos battle” (11 December) highlighted aspects of the current Health and Safety Commission consultation on changes to the asbestos regulations.

While we welcome the emphasis in the articles on evidence-based policy making, I need to correct a comment about our views. While risks from white asbestos may be significantly lower than the risks from blue or brown, HSE does not agree that white asbestos poses no medical risk.

-Jonathan Rees, Deputy Chief Executive, Health and Safety Executive, December 2005

The Health and Safety Laboratory’s research does not confirm that white asbestos in textured coatings poses “no health risk” (Christopher Booker, 6 August). In its report for the Health and Safety Executive, the Laboratory found rather that the level of asbestos fibres in the air from work with textured coatings will not exceed the proposed new lower control limit when carried out using good practice.

Chrysotile asbestos, as found in many textured coatings, is classified as a category 1 carcinogen hazardous by inhalation by both the World Health Organisation and the EU.

-Geoffrey Podger, Chief Executive, Health and Safety Executive, August 2006

HSE does not exaggerate the risks of white asbestos cement fibres as claimed by Christopher Booker (Farmers face £6 bn bill for asbestos clean up’ 25 May). The article was substantially misleading…

The HSE paper quoted in the article in fact makes no specific statement about the risks of asbestos cement. It provides a summary of risk estimates for mesothelioma and lung cancer in relation to blue, brown and white asbestos across a range of exposures. Blue and brown asbestos are substantially more hazardous than white, but all three types can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Finally, HSE in no way promotes the interests of the asbestos removal industry and it is absurd to suggest otherwise.

-Geoffrey Podger, Chief Executive, Health and Safety Executive, May 2008

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9 Responses

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  1. […] a lonely furrow, rigorously applying his pseudo-scientific expertise to subjects as wide-ranging as asbestos, speed cameras, and global warming. But now the Daily Telegraph’s science correspondent […]

  2. […] also: “Misinformed”, “substantially misleading” and “absurd” – the UK government’s verdict o… Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Booker attacks… Barack ObamaDeath of the speed […]

  3. […] » In “Don’t Get Fooled Again”, I highlight  Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker’s ongoing campaign to downplay the health risks of white asbestos. Both Booker and his main scientific source, John […]

  4. […] leave a comment » In “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I highlight the antics of the man well-known as the Sunday Telegraph’s “anti-science correspondent”, Christopher Booker. Booker has now written at least 41 different articles in which he denies or downplays the health risks of white asbestos – articles which the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive has described as “misinformed”, “substantially misleading” and “absurd”. […]

  5. […] leave a comment » The Sunday Telegraph’s latest comment piece from Christopher Booker downplaying the health risks of white asbestos, is in a similar vein to the 41 other articles that Booker has had published on the subject since 2002. […]

  6. […] has tried to correct Booker’s false claims, but he has kept repeating them, even claiming – wrongly – that the executive’s own work supports […]

  7. […] claims to dismiss the scientific work on the subject. Several times the Health and Safety Executive has tried to correct Booker’s false claims, but he has kept repeating them, even claiming – wrongly – that the Executive’s own work […]

  8. […] has tried to correct Booker’s false claims, but he has kept repeating them, even claiming – wrongly – that the executive’s own work supports […]

  9. […] has tried to correct Booker’s false claims, but he has kept repeating them, even claiming – wrongly – that the executive’s own work supports […]


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