Official figures may underestimate number of asbestos-containing schools

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Is there more Asbestos in our schools then official figures show?

A series of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests have shown that the amount of asbestos thought to be present in schools across the country could be grossly underestimated.

Speaking to BBC News, Michael Lees of the Asbestos in Schools Group explained how his own research showed a markedly different amount of asbestos in schools than official figures claim. He received FoI responses from Local Authorities across the UK put the number of schools containing the deadly fibres at 86 per cent. Back in 2008 a Department for Education estimate claimed it was 70 per cent, a figure it has since revised up to 75 per cent.

Going further, Lees – who lost his wife to mesothelioma – argued that suggestions of asbestos being harmless if left alone are “pure rhetoric” where schools are concerned as: “inevitably, if asbestos is accessible to children, it is going to be disturbed.”

These figures, Lees argues, could show that children and teachers alike could be at real danger of developing the fatal condition – a risk that has been run over the past decades. Further, schools that were built during the 1960s and 70s are likely to contain “huge amounts” of the substance.

“In the last 10 years, 158 schoolteachers have died of mesothelioma,” he added. “We want openness.”

Craig Cox
ASI Environmental Ltd

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More on Asbestos: Silent classroom killer? 75% of schools contain deadly asbestos says report

Schools might strive to be healthy, safe environments for students, but hidden asbestos could be putting the very lives of teachers and pupils at risk.

New fears have surfaced over the safety of pupils, following a report revealing that more than 75% of Britain’s state schools contain deadly asbestos, much of which is badly maintained.

The report, by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, warns that asbestos is a very real and present danger for both pupils and teachers and concludes that “there are serious deficiencies in the way that asbestos is managed in schools.”

MPs are now calling on the Government to address this ‘time-bomb’ and implement a programme to clear the material from schools.

Launching the report on 1st Feb, the chair of the All-Party Group, Jim Sheridan MP, said: “This is a national scandal. Urgent action is needed to prevent more pupils, teachers and other staff being exposed to this deadly killer dust.

“We need both far greater awareness of the risks that this material poses and a programme for its phased removal.”

Danger

Whilst asbestos might not feature highly in the consciousness of school leadership staff, it is an issue that could have devastating consequences if not properly managed and maintained.

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