The Use of Asbestos in Schools
More than 75% of British schools contain asbestos. Approximately 13,000 of the UK’s 23,800 schools were built between 1945 and 1974; when the use of asbestos in construction was at its peak.
Factories inspectorate reports in the mid – late 1960s warned of the dangers of inhaling even a small quantity of asbestos dust. Despite this, schools continued to be built using large amounts of asbestos materials. Ceilings, walls and floor tiles were often constructed using asbestos. In addition, it was found in Bunsen burner mats, oven mitts used for domestic science, fire blankets and even in the manufacture of blackboards.
A primary teacher died of mesothelioma (an asbestos related cancer) and the post mortem found industrial levels of asbestos fibre in her lung. She had regularly hung children’s wet coats in the boiler house at her school which contained lagging on the boiler and on the pipes surrounding it. Walls and display boards often contain asbestos and even small amounts of dust created whilst pinning up pictures can be dangerous.
Current government policy is to leave asbestos in schools undisturbed. It is the inhalation of asbestos dust which causes illness and it is thought safer to leave it than to remove it. Having said that, school buildings suffer more than other buildings might quite simply because they are full of children: jostling in corridors, kicking footballs and creating holes in walls.
Deaths from mesothelioma amongst teachers have increased year on year and are higher than other “white collar” professionals. By 2006/8, on average 16 teachers were dying of mesothelioma every year. Nursery nurses, lunchtime assistants, secretaries and cleaners have also been victims. School caretakers are at particular risk due to the nature of their duties drilling and fixing and potentially therefore disturbing asbestos dust.
There are now strict regulations as to how to deal with asbestos in schools. Schools need an asbestos register and to inform and train staff dealing with it.
If you have been exposed to asbestos at any point in your life and have been diagnosed with an asbestos related condition such as mesothelioma, pleural thickening, asbestosis or lung cancer then it is essential to contact experienced specialist solicitors who can help you obtain the compensation and care that is required.
Wolferstans Solicitors Specialist Asbestos Department –