Asbestos in Schools
- 9th August 2017
- Posted by: mds
- Category: Asbestos, Asbestos Consultancy, Asbestos Management, Asbestos Survey, Asbestos Training, Health and Safety, Mesothelioma, UK Action Mesothelioma Day 2017
Asbestos in Schools
It’s the start of the summer holidays. Schools across the country have broken up, and the kids have emptied out of the buildings to enjoy weeks of freedom. But there is something that still remains in countless schools throughout the UK that has become a growing concern for teachers and parents alike.
Around 319 teachers have died from mesothelioma since 1980, according to the National Union of Teachers. This information in itself is harrowing enough, but it is also estimated that for every teacher’s death, there will be nine former pupil deaths, as a result of exposure when they were at school. It is also believed that the risk of serious illness is three and a half times greater in a child. This has brought some experts to believe that where mesothelioma generally has a latency period of between 30 – 40 years, in a child exposed to asbestos, the onset of the disease could be much earlier.
It is thought that over 75% of schools in the UK contain the deadly material. The issue continues to spark debate throughout the government, local councils and authorities, and has become a consistent topic in the news in recent years.
In the past, the National Union of Teachers have stated that they believe the best course of action would be to remove all asbestos, and from every single school on a nationwide scale. And indeed, The All-Party Parliamentary Group of Occupational Safety and Health, in 2015, called for plans to be put in place to completely eradicate asbestos from all buildings by 2035. In the case of schools and public buildings, they’ve stressed such plans should be put in place by 2028.
The argument against this idea however, seems to be that in many cases, provided the asbestos is safely encapsulated and left alone, there is no risk of exposure. In some cases, safe removal can be virtually impossible and pose a greater risk because of the fibre release it would cause. However, the National Union of Teachers and many others have criticised this argument, as they believe that no matter how well the asbestos has been sealed, there is no way to completely avoid damage or deterioration, regardless of how well it has been monitored, particularly in schools packed with boisterous kids.
The general consensus for councils is that if the asbestos is sealed, undisturbed and monitored accordingly for deterioration or damage, then it should be left in situ, but some believe this is outdated, and what was once considered a temporary solution, has now become standard practice.
While the decision on whether or not asbestos should be completely removed from all public buildings – particularly schools – remains on going, it does not detract from the mounting worry that parents and teachers feel. However, provided schools take appropriate measures to identify any asbestos in their buildings, and implement thorough asbestos management plans in the event the material is discovered, then the risk of exposure should be avoidable.