School Asbestos Safety

I was reading a recent piece in the Guardian, concerning school Asbestos Safety. Politics aside, the article was very well written.

Here is a small extract from the Article by  Lola Okolosie;

“Mesothelioma, a disease usually linked to asbestos, is typically diagnosed 40-60 years after initial exposure. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – that dreaded phrase again – estimates that there are about as many asbestos-related lung cancer deaths each year as there are deaths from mesothelioma. Britain, once the world’s biggest user of asbestos, has the highest rates of the condition in the world.

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In a 2015 report on asbestos in schools, the all-party parliamentary group on cccupational safety and health described the issue as a “timebomb”, quoting the Medical Research Council (MRC), which estimates that “children attending schools built prior to 1975 are likely to inhale around three million asbestos fibres over the course of their education”. Nearly all the 14,000 schools built between 1945 and 1975, many in need of major works, contain the substance.

If the government is serious about learning lessons from Grenfell, then it should be committed to ridding schools of asbestos. Their current stance – insisting it’s safer to leave the substance alone rather than be rid of it altogether, only kicks the can along. In a 2014 audit, on the condition of school buildings, costing £25m, the Department of Education overlooked investigating asbestos in schools. Three years on, no such data, as of yet, exists. A second survey is due to be published at the end of this year – perhaps then the DfE can “reliably assess whether key risks are materialising”.


The government’s own advisory Committee on Carcinogenicity (COC) provisionally concludes that children are more vulnerable than adults to mesothelioma because with more years ahead of them, the disease has longer to develop.

This is not only incredibly irresponsible but is also a tacit devolvement of a heavy burden on to local councils and schools from central government. In an era of slashed budgets, it’s an expensive business that no one quite gets around to solving.

From 1980 to 1985 three teachers a year died from mesothelioma – 15 over five years. In 2012 alone, there were 22. Experts quoted by the HSE predict that asbestos-related deaths will 91,000 by 2050 with nearly 61,000 of those occurring from 2007 onwards.”

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