The Guardian is reporting that a coroner has ruled that a primary school teacher who contracted cancer after decades of exposure to asbestos used as pinboards for her pupil’s art work died as a result of an industrial disease.
Elizabeth Belt died aged 68 in September after a three-year battle with mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer linked to asbestos dust. In a detailed statement given before her death, Belt recalled her years spent in schools exposed to asbestos before it was banned in the 1980s.
The statement, submitted to the inquest into her death, said she regularly pinned children’s drawings and written work to asbestos boards in classrooms at various schools in north Lincolnshire.
Belt’s statement said that at her first teaching post in 1968, at Brigg Country primary school, the classrooms “would seem a bit dusty”. She said: “There may have been exposure to asbestos at the infant section of the school.
“There were large sections of boarding where the children’s work was displayed and there would be a change of work every two to three weeks.”
A decade later, Belt began work at Baysgarth school in Barton-upon-Humber. Her statement said: “They had that same boarding and there was constant pinning and removing. There was considerable use of a staple gun.”
The coroner Paul Kelly recorded a verdict of death as a result of an industrial disease. Addressing Belt’s family at the inquest last week, Kelly said: “I have no doubt that Mum contracted malignant mesothelioma as a result of ingesting asbestos while working as a teacher at various schools in north Lincolnshire between 1968 and 1995.”
The inquest heard that North Lincolnshire council’s insurers had accepted a claim with Belt’s family. The family have not revealed the level of compensation…
Mesothelioma UK, which supports people with the disease, welcomed the verdict and said it highlighted the increasing incidence of mesothelioma cases in the UK.
Liz Darlison, the charity’s director of services, said: “This is a preventable, currently incurable, occupational disease. Many of our schools, public buildings and homes still contain asbestos and we owe it to future generations to address this public health disaster now.”
As Liz Darlison suggests, we know many schools still have asbestos in them, but the perceived wisdom is that it is not dangerous unless disturbed.
Is that a good enough status quo or do you feel more needs to be done to eradicate it?
Please give us your feedback in the comments or via Twitter…
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