More than half of NHS Scotland buildings contain asbestos, it has been revealed.
Eight of the 14 health boards in the country have reported having the material in over 50% of their buildings.
The figure rises as high as 92% of buildings for the NHS Lothian health board.
Asbestos – a toxic substance which can be found in buildings built before 2000 – was found to be present in 52% of the buildings belonging to NHS Scotland overall.
There are around 5,000 deaths every year in the UK caused by asbestos, with about 20 tradesmen estimated to die each week as a result of past exposure.
It can cause fatal and serious diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis.
Fibres released into the air when materials containing asbestos are disturbed or damaged can cause serious diseases when they are inhaled.
They can often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything.
The figures on the level of asbestos in buildings across the NHS Scotland estate were compiled by the Scottish Conservatives following a series of freedom of information requests by the party.
They have called for the removal of the dangerous material from affected buildings.
Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Miles Briggs insisted that ministers must provided health boards with the funding need to ensure its removal.
“These shocking figures will undoubtedly raise questions about the state of our NHS buildings under the SNP,” he said.
“Buildings such as hospitals are supposed to be places where people feel safe, yet more than half of them contain this potentially cancer-causing substance.
“While we know it’s unlikely that asbestos will be inhaled unless buildings are damaged, NHS staff and patients need confidence and peace of mind that they are not being put at risk.
“It’s essential therefore that SNP ministers provide health boards with the funds to ensure the safe removal of asbestos from their buildings.
“The SNP government must do more to protect our NHS estate and ensure that dedicated staff can continue saving lives in the best facilities possible.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson pointed to the presence of asbestos in NHS buildings across the UK.
“We recognise the hazard of asbestos and the risks to health it poses,” they said.
“However, asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed which is why it is important to remain in-situ while it is in ‘good condition’ and that all Health and Safety Executive guidance is followed when planning and carrying out any removal.
“This is the situation for managing asbestos in NHS buildings across the UK.
“For example, NHS England has found that over 90% of their buildings checked in the last three years have been found to have asbestos containing material.”
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