Unions fight back to purge asbestos from our schools.

The Morning Star reports that a campaign warning of the scourge of asbestos in Britain’s schools is to be launched in the north-east, targeting parents and education workers.

Delegates at the Northern TUC conference in Newcastle were told at the weekend that between 200 and 300 people die every year from the effects of asbestos exposure, often decades after coming into contact with the deadly mineral as schoolchildren.

A motion from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) warned delegates that 86 per cent of schools in Britain contain asbestos.

Asbestos causes a range of lung diseases, the worst of which is mesothelioma — an incurable cancer of the lining of the lung and the diaphragm. The disease usually takes decades to produce symptoms.

The conference heard that people who breathed in asbestos fibres as schoolchildren have died from the effects in their forties.

Despite the dangers, union research has shown that almost half the teachers in the affected schools have not been warned about its presence or the dangers it poses.

Delegate Rita Morris told the conference: “Most people associate asbestos with heavy industry, but more than half our schools contain asbestos.”

“More than 200 people die every year as a result of exposure to asbestos as schoolchildren. A pupil in Moseley died at 46 of mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos at school. Teachers also die — 22 in the last year alone.”

There is conflicting advice on how to deal with the problem, Ms Morris said.

She cited advice from the Health and Safety Executive that if materials containing asbestos were “safe,” it was best left undisturbed.

“But schools are not places that are left undisturbed,” she pointed out.

The conference backed a four-point campaign to warn parents and staff of the dangers, and press the government to fund a phased programme of asbestos removal.

Read more Unions fight back to purge asbestos from our schools. 

Have you been warned about asbestos in your school? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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