SOME of Wearside’s biggest tourist attractions are among 37 council-owned buildings on the Asbestos Risk Register.
Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Monkwearmouth Station Museum and Washington F Pit Museum are listed as containing the potentially deadly material.
Other civic buildings on the register include the Civic Centre, Jacky White’s Market, Washington Arts Centre, Silksworth Ski Slope, Silksworth Tennis Centre and the city’s Central Library.
Some of the affected buildings, built in the mid 20th century, have exceeded their original life expectancy but are still being used.
Properly managed, asbestos is not deemed to be a risk. However, the concern is that as the civic buildings deteriorate in condition, so does the asbestos in them.
Earlier this year, the Echo revealed how 65 per cent of schools in the city also contained the material. Hetton School has had to shut off a section of its building after adverse weather conditions disturbed the asbestos fibres.
When built, many of the civic buildings contained a large amount of amosite, commonly referred to as “brown” asbestos and sometimes “gray” asbestos – one of the more hazardous forms of the material.
If asbestos is damaged then the fibres can be released and breathed in. A large exposure can cause mesothelioma.
Visitors to some attractions did not seem overly concerned about the presence of the material.
Helen Swain, 33, who was visiting the Museum and Winter Gardens with daughter, Summer, three, said: “My brother-in-law works in asbestos removal so I know how common it can be.
“Too many buildings have it in these days, but I would not be put off going somewhere just because there was asbestos present.”
Karen Devlin, 28, visiting the museum with niece Gemma, seven, added: “I bet most buildings you go in have asbestos. I would like to think everything is being done to get rid of it, though.”
Councillor Mel Speding, cabinet secretary at Sunderland City Council, said: “We take the issue of asbestos very seriously.
“Asbestos was a common building material in the 1960s and is present in many buildings constructed during this time. However, if asbestos is in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed, it is often safer to leave it in place.
“The council has an asbestos management policy, which complies with current legislation and the safe management of asbestos in council and other public building and is kept under constant review.
“It has an ongoing inspection programme in place of buildings where asbestos is present.”