Hundreds of British Army tanks potentially riddled with deadly asbestos

More than 2,000 pieces of British military equipment could be riddled with potentially deadly asbestos containing materials, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted.

Ministers revealed that Challenger 2 tanks, versions of which were sent to Ukraine, Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and Bulldog armoured personnel carriers are among those affected.

Exposure to asbestos can prove fatal and is linked to mesothelioma, a form of cancer, and severe scarring of the lungs. Those in contact with it can also suffer years after being exposed.

The shadow defence secretary, John Healey, described the revelation as a “serious concern”. He added that the Conservative Party were failing in their “special duty” to the Armed Forces.

The MoD said “plans are underway to eliminate” any potentially deadly asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

READ MORE: ‘UK must learn lessons from WWII’ in light of Ukraine war as army ‘too small’

The MoD revealed that, in total, 2,699 pieces of equipment owned by the army contain ACMs, though the numbers in actual frontline service are much lower.

They were confirmed in a letter to Labour from James Cartlidge, the defence procurement minister. ACMs, which are naturally occurring, were used in the 20th century for the construction of tanks, ships and planes.

But they “break down into tiny fibres when disturbed and prolonged exposure can lead to incurable damage of the lungs”, according to The Times.

The exhaustive list of equipment affected includes 765 Bulldog armoured personnel carriers, 324 Challenger 2 tanks, 75 Challenger armoured repair and recovery vehicles, 11 Fuchs armoured vehicles, 14 Gazelle reconnaissance helicopters, 31 high mobility trailers, 841 Pinzgauer 4x4s, 64 Stormer armoured vehicles, 540 Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and 34 Wildcat helicopters.

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John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said Labour would look to provide safe equipment should they take over next year.

Mr Healey said: “Ministers have a special duty to those who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect the UK and its interests. The scale of asbestos in British Army equipment is a serious concern.

“After 13 years, the Conservatives have still failed to fix the defence procurement system, which the public accounts committee describes as ‘broken and wasting taxpayers money’.

“Our armed forces are forced to rely on ageing and asbestos-riddled equipment. Labour will ensure they have the kit they need to fight with confidence and fulfil our NATO obligations.”

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A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The safety of our service personnel is our highest priority and plans are underway to eliminate asbestos in our equipment as soon as possible, with risk assessments undertaken to keep our people safe.

“These figures represent only a worst-case scenario and much of the equipment referenced will already be out of service, unaffected by asbestos, or has had asbestos containing materials removed.

“The presence of asbestos containing materials in itself does not create a health risk and equipment containing asbestos above statutory limits can only be operated by specialists.”

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