Asbestos in schools: Is it a danger?
How would you know if there is asbestos in your child’s school? And is it a danger? A teaching union has raised concerns about a potential “ticking timebomb” in school buildings. So what is being done to protect teachers and pupils?
The dangers of asbestos are well documented. The material was banned in 1999 but it was regularly used in construction until this date, including for some schools built between the 1950s and 1980s.
More than 200 teachers have died across the country since 2001 from mesothelioma, a form of cancer associated with asbestos, according to the National Education Union, (NEU – formerly the National Union of Teachers).
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Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos fibres and the disease typically develops more than 20 years later.
Children who are exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to contract the disease than adults aged 30, government research has found.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that, properly managed, it presents a “very low risk” to people in school buildings.
Research by the BBC has found that just over half of schools in the North West are known to contain asbestos, but local authorities do not know if 44% of schools have the material or not.
This is because many schools (61%) are outside LEA control including academies and free schools.
Peter Middleman is a representative of the NEU in the North West.
“If you start from a position that asbestos causes cancer in children, or children who are exposed to asbestos go on to get cancer in later life, then your starting position needs to be that it’s removed as a priority,” he said.
“They’re paying £7bn to renovate the House of Commons, another £150m to renovate the Royal Palaces. It would take £13bn to get schools up to a satisfactory standard without removing asbestos.
It’ll cost more to do it properly but we think it’s worth paying. The powers that be have an obligation to ensure this isn’t a ticking timebomb.”
A survey by the teachers’ union in March 2017 found that 46% of teachers had been told that their school contained asbestos but about half of those said they had not been told where it was located.
Mr Middleman said he acknowledged that schools are under financial pressure but said “knowledge is power”.
“If we know where the incidents are likely to take place, we know where the asbestos is, then we can manage that,” he said.Read the full story here
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