RED-faced BBC officials have apologised for showcasing a Second World War gas mask linked to lethal asbestos on the Antiques Roadshow.
Last week’s episode of the popular peak-time programme highlighted the quirky military antique.
The resident expert enthused over the wartime mask designed to be carried in a handbag by a civilian lady.
It was brought on to the programme by a woman desperate to know more about its origins and history.
But Beeb bosses have since been forced to issue a warning and apology, after it emerged such masks were often made with deadly asbestos in them.
The hidden health risk prompted worried campaigners to complain angrily to BBC bosses about its inclusion in the programme.
Campaigner Sarah Walters, of Asbestos Heritage, said: “We were shocked at the casual way the asbestos mask was handled without even the slightest warning to viewers.
“More than 2,500 people are dying every year from mesothelioma from asbestos. Not once was asbestos
mentioned or a warning given.
“We worry seriously about children seeking them out and trying them on.”
Mesothelioma patient and campaigner Mavis Nye also complained to the BBC about the mask.
She said: “The HSE has warned schools of the dangers of gas masks and carried out tests on vintage gas masks.
“The majority contained asbestos in the filters, often blue asbestos.
“They said only a minority of those tested did not contain asbestos and it was not possible to say which models do, or do not, contain asbestos.
“I sincerely hope this is never repeated on the BBC.”
Lethal fibres from asbestos lie in the lungs and other body organs.
Victims can develop cancer 20 or more years later when the malignancy takes hold.
A BBC spokesman welcomed the concern of campaigners. He said: “Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
“We have been in touch with the owner of the item and passed on the information.
“We will make sure that viewers are aware of the potential danger if we feature gas masks in the future.”
The gas mask featured in the episode was kept in a stylish ladies’ handbag and was described as “a real novelty”.
Its owner said she paid £25 for it, before being told it could
actually be worth as much as £100.
Despite the object’s obvious historic significance, a spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said it would advise people never to try on an antique gas mask.
She said: “Following tests which have found asbestos to be present in Second World War artefacts, we advise that gas masks should not be worn because of risks to health.
“Artefacts should be stored or kept safely, just as they would be in museums.”
Antiques Roadshow is a Sunday night staple and one of the best-loved programmes on TV.
Presented by Fiona Bruce, 52, the current series regularly draws an audience of 5.5 million viewers.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe