Safety campaigners and cancer experts have slammed advertising watchdogs for banning a series of government-sponsored adverts warning about the dangers construction workers face from asbestos.
Officials at the Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints that the Health and Safety Executive had exaggerated the risk asbestos posed to building workers in its claim that "every year there are more people killed by asbestos than in road accidents."
The watchdog ruled that the HSE should describe annual death figures of 4000 as estimates in any revised future campaign.
The decision has stunned consultant Thoracic Surgeon Mr John Edwards. He said: "It is a fact that at least 4,000 people are dying a year from asbestos-related cancer in the UK.
"Evolving evidence suggests that this is an underestimate and that consequentially it is of utmost importance that we minimize future exposures to asbestos as well as identify problems in those people who have previously been exposed. The HSE are to be commended on their campaign in this regard."
Safety campaigners are also furious with the decision. Laurie Kazan-Allen, co-ordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat said: "It will be used by global asbestos producers as 'proof' that warnings over the use of asbestos have been exaggerated."
Leaders of the HSE are now looking to have the decision overturned. Steve Coldrick, asbestos programme director, said: "This campaign is clearly in the public interest and we are now looking to seek an independent review of the adjudication.
"HSE has made no deliberate attempt to mislead the public.
"Our advertising is based on the same robust statistical evidence and scientific understanding that underpins government policy on asbestos."