It’s thought asbestos is present in virtually all schools built between 1950 and 2000 – and according to the campaign group ‘I Asbestos in Schools’, 40,000 people have died as a result of exposure to it during almost seven decades. ITV reports.
Even low levels of exposure to asbestos fibres can cause both lung cancer, as well as cancer of the lining of the lung called mesothelioma.
It’s a condition Sally Millsopp’s mother died from in 2015. Jennifer Earnshaw had been a headteacher at two primary schools in Norfolk.
“They were having major renovation works going on at the school and so she had breathed in spores unknowingly and then years and years later she started having some symptoms, some breathing difficulties, coughing and then she got this terrible diagnosis.”
According to figures from the Department of Education, thousands of schools across the country are failing to follow safety guidelines on asbestos.
A survey of more than 5,500 schools in 2016 found:
- More than four out of every five had asbestos.
- 19 % were not fully compliant with asbestos procedures
- Of these, 114 were said to give “significant cause for concern”.
The Health and Safety Executive’s view is that if asbestos is in a good, sealed condition it isn’t a risk if left undisturbed. But that’s not good enough for teaching unions, with the joint union asbestos committee saying the Government should commit to removing all asbestos in schools by 2028.
“It only takes one fibre and that could be a death sentence.” says Bob Groome from the National Education Union, who’s trying to raise awareness of the potential dangers.
“Every school must have an asbestos register and that should be kept in reception, and it should detail every incident of asbestos in the school and where it is, ” he said. “We would encourage teachers, parents and grandparents to look at it, and contractors must sign that register before they come on site, so they know where asbestos is.”
Read more about asbestos in schools. Pressure on authorities to do more to remove asbestos from schools
Is your school’s asbestos register up to date, is it checked regularly? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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