Asbestos Still Contained in Schools – The Dangers

Asbestos in Schools – The Dangers of hidden Asbestos in Schools

Inner City Environmental carry out asbestos removal work in schools on a regular basis. We came across this article which we have summarised from the BBC News Online about Asbestos in Schools especially after Kent County Council have recently been fined £200,000 over Asbestos at a School in Sittingbourne.

Is There Asbestos in Your Child’s School?

You probably would not know if there is Asbestos in your child’s school.  A leading teaching union has raised concerns about a probable “ticking time-bomb” in schools.  It asks what measures are being put in place to protect pupils and teachers to protect against asbestos still contained in many schools.

The dangers of asbestos are well publicised and documented. Asbestos was banned in 1999. It was regularly used in the construction industry before 1999.  This included some schools built before this date and asbestos still contained in these schools.

Staggering statistics show that more than 200 teachers have died since 2001 from mesothelioma, this is a form of cancer associated with asbestos, according to the National Education Union, Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos fibres.

Usually the disease develops more than 20 years after exposure.

Children are five times more likely to contract the disease than adults aged 30, government research has found.

The HSE said that, properly managed, it presents a “very low risk” to people occupying school buildings.

A study conducted in the North West has found that just over half of schools in the North West are known to contain asbestos,  but a frightening statistic is that local authorities do not know if 44% of schools contain asbestos or not.

This is because many schools (61%) are outside LEA control including academies and free schools.

Peter Middleman who is a representative of the NEU in the North West has said according to a BBC News article online that

“If you start from a position that asbestos causes cancer in children, or children who are exposed to asbestos go on to get cancer in later life, then your starting position needs to be that it’s removed as a priority,” he said.

“They’re paying £7bn to renovate the House of Commons, another £150m to renovate the Royal Palaces. It would take £13bn to get schools up to a satisfactory standard without removing asbestos. It’ll cost more to do it properly but we think it’s worth paying. The powers that be have an obligation to ensure this isn’t a ticking time-bomb.”

A survey by the teachers’ union in March 2017 found that 46% of teachers had been told that their school contained asbestos but about half of those said they had not been told where it was located.

Mr Middleman said he acknowledged that schools are under financial pressure but said “knowledge is power”.

“If we know where the incidents are likely to take place, we know where the asbestos is, then we can manage that,” he said.

Asbestos in Schools – The Real Costs

Former teacher dies!

Michele Reed, a former French Teacher from St Helens, died from mesothelioma in February 2017.

She had worked at schools in the North West for her entire working life.

Michele was convinced she had been exposed to asbestos at a school where she worked which she recalled had dusty classrooms.

Ms Gibbins said to live with the “injustice” of her mother’s death was “horrible.”

“She did not deserve to be in an environment where potentially there’s a danger that if you do this for so long, or even if you do this for five minutes, if you’re in the building with it, that’s it; it’s going to end your life very abruptly and very traumatically at an early stage.”

The HSE requires all employers to notify them if asbestos is released into the air “sufficient to cause potential damage to the health of any person”.

It said  they had received approx 40 reports from schools annually for the past five years.
A spokesman added that many of the reports related to work undertaken by contractors in areas away from pupils and staff or at weekends in the school holidays.

But the regulations that require asbestos disturbances to be reported to the HSE, “do not require the number of school staff and pupils who may have been exposed in incidents to be included within the notification”.

The government stated they invested £5.6bn in the maintenance of school buildings since 2015, this includes funding for the removal of asbestos. They have stated the following:

“We expect all local authorities and academy trusts to have robust plans in place to safely manage asbestos in buildings, and provide detailed guidance for them on doing so,” a spokesman said.

“We have also recently launched the new Asbestos Management Assurance Process a scheme where schools have to provide written assurance that their schools are compliant with legislation on the management of asbestos to make sure they are following these requirements.”

Kent County Council have also recently been fined £200,000 over asbestos still contained in a school at Sittingbourne

For more information on our asbestos removal and environmental services contact us on 01322 273517

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