Asbestos exposure in UK schools costs local governments

5 Dec 2016 by under News

renovations South Oak Cliff High School 100x100 Asbestos exposure in UK schools costs local governments exposure in schools has forced local governments in the to pay millions to staff and students affected by the mineral known to cause mesothelioma cancer.

New figures released by BBC News after Freedom of Information Requests show 32 councils have settled claims topping £10 million with former teachers, students and staff concerning the presence of asbestos in schools. 

Asbestos, a group of silicate minerals, was used as an insulative building material in the United Kingdom before it was completely banned in 1999. When left unaltered, it presents no health risk, but if disturbed, particles can become airborne and potentially be inhaled or ingested by those in close proximity. For example, falling ceiling tiles that contain asbestos in a classroom could expose any in the vicinity.

The National Union of Teachers estimates 300 adults die each year due to exposure to asbestos while at school, according to the BBC. The news organization discovered “figures from 135 councils in England, that show there are at least 12,600 council-run schools where asbestos is known to be present.”

Information in an article by Express estimated more than 7 million children were learning in asbestos-tainted classrooms in 2013.

“This is a ticking time bomb because very few teachers and parents know that there is asbestos in schools. The very least we should do is make sure that this information is available to them,” said Rachel Reeves MP, chair of the Asbestos in Schools group, to the BBC.

In its own article, the Mirror said it has created an Asbestos Timebomb campaign to push for a national audit of all 23,000 schools in England to discover the extent of the asbestos issue.

The Department of Education is expected to invest £23 billion into school infrastructure by 2021.

“In the overwhelming number of cases we do remove asbestos from schools, but in some cases our experts are telling us it’s better to leave the material in place. What our review had done though is given us a clear blueprint for how we tackle this issue going forward and that is what we are focused on doing,” said Education Secretary Justine Greening to the BBC.


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