We have reported a number of times about the problems with asbestos in UK schools. Asbestos was not banned in the UK until the year 2000 and so any building built before this time could, potentially, contain asbestos.
Asbestos is not dangerous until it is disturbed and so if it is in good condition and left alone, there are unlikely to be any dangers. However, if asbestos is in poor condition or is disturbed and the fibres are able to become airbourne, there is a real danger to health.
Over the past few years we have seen more and more instances of teachers being diagnosed with asbestos related conditions, the majority seem to suffer with mesothelioma, an incurable asbestos related cancer. This is due to sufferers being exposed to asbestos whilst working at schools which contained asbestos.
However, in many cases asbestos was not visible, it may have been in walls or ceilings and when putting up displays of work, pinning or stapling paper to walls, teachers have disturbed the asbestos, resulting in fibres becoming airbourne, leading to the risk of developing mesothelioma. It is more likely that light exposure to asbestos such as this would put someone at risk of mesothelioma rather than other asbestos related conditions, such as asbestosis, because it only takes a small amount of exposure to asbestos to put someone at risk of developing mesothelioma.
Due to the nature of the work, removing asbestos is an expensive process and schools up and down the UK are still full of the deadly substance. Shockingly, in Sunderland, 79 out of 117 school buildings, including nurseries, contain asbestos.
Although in most cases the asbestos will be concealed within buildings, this finding will still be a major worry for parents and teachers. The asbestos issue was recently raised before the House of Commons when Hetton School’s acting headteacher and former headteacher spoke to the Public Accounts Committee about problems they had with their old school building.
In September of 2016, Hetton School opened doors to a new site, but prior to this they were plagued with problems caused by the asbestos in their old building. In windy weather, roof tiles would be blown resulting in asbestos dust falling down inside the classrooms below. They advised that “we had two or three cases where we had to close off the school and students had to in fact go into the de-fumigation van, an emergency van, to make sure they were de-dusted and hosed down and cleaned, and it really was that serious.”
These kind of incidents highlight the ongoing issue caused by asbestos and the need for schools to be provided with adequate funding to safely remove all traces of the substance from their buildings. Until asbestos has been fully removed, there can be no guarantee that people won’t have the misfortune of developing asbestos related conditions, including mesothelioma, in the future. The risk needs to be reduced to the lowest level possible to protect teachers and students.
If you require assistance in pursuing a mesothelioma claim or believe you have a valid asbestos compensation claim for any other condition, 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.