In the past few months, the UK government has been forced to write to secondary schools across the UK to warn them of the potential dangers of using Bunsen burner mats.

This is because the Health & Safety Executive have learned that two companies have continued to supply secondary schools with mesh gauze mats which contain asbestos. This could result in students being exposed to the potentially deadly substance in their science lessons.

Remove from use

Science teachers have been told to stop using the Bunsen burner mats immediately, and seal them with tape to guard against the risk of asbestos fibres being released.

The HSE have described the risk to students and teachers as ‘low,’ but the suppliers have been told to stop distribution of the mats immediately whilst a full investigation into which schools have been affected is underway.

The dangers of even low level exposure

Sadly, you can develop the deadly asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, after breathing in only small quantities of airborne asbestos dust. Clearly, the mats are thought to present some form of health and safety risk.

A HSE spokesperson has advised: “Although the risk of exposure is low, we took action as soon as we were informed. HSE inspectors ensured supply of the asbestos-containing gauze mats was stopped immediately. We got the message out as soon as possible and alerted schools, colleges and others to the issue, providing precautionary advice on how to check if they are affected and if so, what to do next.”

The investigation into the potential dangers of the mats is ongoing. The HSE have been able to serve enforcement notices on the two offending companies to ensure that all of the mats are destroyed safely under controlled conditions.

Real concern has been expressed by teaching unions, who state that the use of any form of material containing asbestos in this day and age is completely unacceptable. We completely agree.

Asbestos in schools

It is a real worry that the mats could have been in use within our secondary schools and colleges ever since 1976, presenting the possibility that thousands of teachers and young pupils have been unknowingly exposed to harmful amounts of asbestos dust.

Shockingly, it is thought that around 80% of our schools contain asbestos materials, which present a risk to those studying and teaching.

We will continue to keep you informed of any updated developments on the ongoing HSE investigation into the live problem.

How can we help?

If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos claim then please contact us today on our Freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the contact us page, complete the form and we will be in touch.

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