Asbestos puts students at risk on campus – building material found in 74% of English university buildings
As the new academic year gets underway, students and staff are facing an asbestos risk at a high number of top-ranking English universities, as national law firm reveals almost two-thirds have asbestos in campus buildings.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Stephensons Solicitors LLP sent to 106 universities in England has revealed 74% are understood to have the potentially harmful building material present in the fabric of their buildings, a total of 78 higher education establishments.
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A staggering 86% of universities who responded to the FOI request contain asbestos on their estates, according to the official figures. In total, 91 English universities responded to the request for information.
Uni’s reporting asbestos include Russell Group universities, such as University of Cambridge and University of Oxford, and all of the six red brick universities – University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, University of Manchester and University of Sheffield.
With freshers week in full swing, Stephensons’ personal injury team is calling on all universities to do more to provide students and staff with information on the deadly material if there is asbestos on campus or in student accommodation.
Kate Sweeney, a Partner in the personal injury team at Stephensons, said: “It’s not surprising due to the age of many of the country’s university buildings that an incredibly high number of universities have reported that they have asbestos present in the buildings on their estates.
“As thousands of new students start uni and undergraduates return to their studies, we are calling on universities to better inform students and staff if there is asbestos present on campus and the measures being taken to manage it. A consistent and clear message needs to be added to websites, student newspapers and department notice boards.”
The findings follow an exposé by Stephensons in July which revealed 5,196 maintained primary schools are understood to have the potentially deadly material in its buildings.
The law firm is campaigning for more information to be disclosed about the presence of asbestos in buildings used for education.
Asbestos was banned in 1999 but had been routinely used during construction in decades gone by. The material was commonly installed in schools, colleges, universities and other public buildings during the 1940s-1970s and is now often in a deteriorating state.
Asbestos fibres only become a risk to human health when they are released into the air and breathed in.
Problem buildings with damaged roofs, rotten windows and broken ceiling tiles can result in asbestos fibres being released into the air. If inhaled, the fibres can cause a range of life-threatening illnesses including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Liz Darlison, Head of Services at Mesothelioma UK, the national charity for the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, added: “The prevalence of mesothelioma in the UK does not appear to be slowing down and concern about the effect of low levels of exposure to asbestos is increasing.
“As new academic years start for all students the presence of asbestos in educational buildings – from schools, colleges to universities – is an issue we need to address as a national priority. Mesothelioma UK applaud Stephensons Solicitors for raising awareness of asbestos and the effects of exposure in universities.”
Kate added: “Asbestos is still very much a problem in the education sector from primary schools through to universities and unfortunately the number of cases of asbestos related diseases in people who have worked in the sector is increasing.
“The potentially deadly material has been used in all types of buildings and is still present in many primary schools and universities due to aging educational buildings. Parents, students, academics, teachers and support staff have a right to know if asbestos is present and what measures are being taken to manage exposure.”Read the full story here
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