Grot Spot Britain: Worrying rise in illegally dumped asbestos, ITV News finds

Credit: ITV News

I was shocked when I visited a massive illegal dump, but to discover it contains asbestos shifts things into a new league.

The visual and environmental impact of fly-tipping is stark, but now the risk to human health is also becoming clear.

Our findings reveal the worrying and growing problem of hazardous waste being disposed of in communities across Britain.

Asbestos fibres can cause severe, even fatal illness.

Yet we have evidence that it is being left in places where children play and the public walk.

We have established that it is being unlawfully disposed of in parks, on footpaths, churchyards and near schools.

Often, it is being dumped on an industrial scale by criminal gangs.

Other cases are small scale domestic rubbish, but whatever the source there is a clear danger.

An expert identified five different examples of asbestos at a site in south London. Credit: ITV News

Freedom of information requests by ITV News show 3,222 asbestos fly-tipping incidents this year.

That’s a rise of around 14% in three years.

Most councils say their target is to remove the site over five days.

Although some councils achieve this, we found removal can take up to three months in some instances.

The annual cost of dealing with illegally dumped asbestos has now reached over £1 million.

Asbestos can cause cancer. Credit: ITV News

ITV News asked a toxic waste expert to take samples from an illegal mega-dump at Colnbrook near Heathrow.

He identified five different examples of asbestos on just one site: a corrugated roof sheet; an asbestos insulating board; an asbestos cement sheet; asbestos fireplace; and an asbestos fire surround.

Fly-tipping is occurring on an epic and appalling scale.

Hundreds of tons of domestic, business and builders' waste is left strewn across public areas.

The hazards identified in our research show the threat to public health.

Many now believe it's time for the official response to move up a gear.

In response to ITV News' findings, a spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: "Dumping a toxic substance is the height of selfishness and stupidity...

"We need a new streamlined system which helps councils - one that is nimble, flexible and effective.

"Not only does fly-tipping create an eyesore for residents, it is also a serious public health risk, especially with toxic waste."

The Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs added: "Fly-tipping is an unacceptable blight on our landscape, which is why we have cracked down on offenders by strengthening sentencing guidelines and giving councils the powers to hand out on-the-spot fines to fly-tippers.

"We have made it easier for vehicles suspected of being used for fly-tipping to be stopped, searched and seized and will continue to work with local partners to stop this inexcusable crime."