Seven million children at risk of asbestos exposure just by going to school
The map reproduced below shows that more than seven million children in England are at risk of asbestos exposure just by going to school.
Black spots include Hertfordshire, Kent and Essex, but virtually no corner of England escapes the blight of the ‘killer dust.’
The ‘map of shame’ has been drawn up by leading law firm Stephensons and based on Freedom of Information requests providing figures showing that 86% of school buildings contain asbestos.
The Daily Mirror’s Asbestos Timebomb campaign calls for an audit of all schools to assess the risks and Britain’s biggest teachers’ union, the NUT, demands its total removal.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was urged to tackle the problem amid calls for better information for parents on the measures being taken to protect their children.
The government insists asbestos is safe unless disturbed and says it is “ridiculous” to suggest that nearly all school children are at risk.
But critics says asbestos, which was used extensively for fire protection and insulation in school building until it was banned in 1999, poses a substantial risk.
They say it is an “asbestos timebomb” as children can be boistrous and walls and ceilings damaged by balls or drawing pins and deadly asbestos fibres released into the air.
Dust from asbestos can trigger a deadly lung disease, mesothelioma, but the long latency period means many victims were unaware they were exposed to the killer dust 30 or 40 years earlier.
Stephensons’ study estimates 7.1m out of the total of 8.3m children in schools are at risk of asbestos exposure.
And it warns there is currently no requirement for a school to notify parents when asbestos is found in their buildings.
The lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about three and a half times greater for a child first exposed at age five compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about five times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.
There is currently no reliable screening test for mesothelioma and the early signs of the cancer are often missed.
The study says 80% of the school stock is “beyond its shelf life” and a significant number of schools are in poor condition or insufficiently maintained.
Kate Sweeney, a partner at Stephensons said: “Many people still think that asbestos is only a threat to factory or trade workers and this simply isn’t the case.
“The deadly material has been used in all types of buildings since the 1950s and is still present in the majority of schools in the UK due to ageing stock.
“These figures are very concerning and the fact that parents have no right to be notified even more so.
“Asbestos can be easily disturbed with a simple pinprick of the wall when hanging up children’s artwork and have a long term effect on the health of anyone exposed.
“These findings make a clear case for parents to have better access to information on the measures being taken by local education authorities and schools to protect their children.”
And Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) told the Mirror:“Successive governments have run away from the scourge of asbestos in schools for too long.
“The numbers of teachers dying from mesothelioma are increasing. But for every teacher that dies there will be many ex pupils.
“It is estimated that between 200 and 300 adults are dying every year as a result of exposure to asbestos when they were at school.
“Nicky Morgan needs to take action on a national scale to tackle the problem and make schools safe. But there isn’t even a national survey of where asbestos is in our school system.
“Children and staff deserve better than to be exposed to asbestos when they should be safe in school.”
A Department for Education spokesman said:” “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of children and staff in our schools.
“That’s why since 2010, we have invested billions to improve the condition of the school estate, with more significant investment to come over this Parliament.
“This funding will help to ensure asbestos is managed safely and that the amount in school buildings continues to reduce over time.”
Click here to see a brief video of our industry experts discussing asbestos in schools.
Source: The Mirror
Post date: 18 Aug 2015
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