Did you know an astonishing 86% of schools in the UK are estimated to contain asbestos*, a highly lethal material with dangerous health risks? Stunningly, despite the life-and-death impact of this topic, research suggests that many schools in the UK don’t know the answer to this question.

More than 50% of teachers and the vast majority of students (and parents) have not been told whether or not their institution is contaminated. According to a BBC documentary, which aired in the autumn of 2018, schools are not obligated to inform parents about the existence of asbestos in their child’s school.

Asbestos exposure has been proven to cause cancer

Prior to being banned in 1999, asbestos had been used regularly in construction throughout the UK. Today, asbestos can still be present in any building that was constructed or refurbished before the year 2000, making the sheer scope of its ability to cause sickness and death massive. Making this crisis even more critical – asbestos was used extensively in schools that were built between the 1950s and 1980s.

As a direct result of the widespread existence of this substance in schools, more than 200 teachers have died across the country since 2001 from mesothelioma, a particularly lethal form of cancer linked to asbestos. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, with the disease typically developing more than 20 years after contact.

Just as alarming, several different studies have estimated that as many as 400 former students die annually, as a result of exposure to asbestos when they were attending school.

Asbestos removal is the only responsible and safe option for UK schools

As stark as these numbers are, it is even more troubling to realise that much, if not all, of this loss of life from mesothelioma could have been prevented – simply by removing all traces of asbestos from schools. Yet, rather than opting to eradicate this lethal substance from educational institutions across the UK to protect the lives of today’s students and teachers, government policy calls for leaving the asbestos in place and trying to manage it. The official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) position holds that asbestos, when properly managed, is safe and presents a "very low risk" to people in school buildings. Yet a recent study by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has raised the alarm about the government’s response to the potential ticking timebomb of asbestos contamination in school buildings. The union’s research concludes that,

Asbestos remains a killer in schools and there is simply no evidence to support the government’s case that it is safer to manage asbestos than to remove it.

In reality, the presence of even the slightest amount of asbestos can risk children and teachers being exposed to this extremely toxic material. Peter Middleman, a representative of the National Education Union, underlines this danger, stating,

The government seems to be satisfied with the reassurance that there is a low risk of disturbance, but one disturbance and it’s too late. A corner of a desk penetrates a wall coating or [a] drawing pin is inserted into a tile with asbestos [and it] will release deadly fibres.

The only way to truly protect teachers and students from asbestos exposure is to completely eradicate this deadly substance from schools. As a fully licenced asbestos removal contractor, we specialise in delivering compliant and high quality solutions which meet the needs of our clients across the UK.

For more information about our services please contact 01245 205 500, or email ion.enquiries@careysplc.co.uk.

* Source: National Education Union

ION Environmental - Asbestos in schools

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