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Asbestos lawyers welcome review of the management of asbestos in schools

A consultation document published by the Department of Education will look at the way in which the presence of asbestos in schools is managed

Many schools in the UK contain asbestos

6 February 2014

Leading asbestos lawyer and Leigh Day partner Daniel Easton has welcomed the publication of a consultation document on the management of asbestos in schools in the UK.

Over 75% of state schools in Britain contain asbestos, exposure to which is the only cause of the fatal lung cancer mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure is also thought to possibly cause other cancers such as in the larynx, oesophagus and ovary.

In February 2012 the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health published a report, Asbestos in Schools, drawing attention to the presence of this deadly substance in schools.

Every year some 4,000 people die from asbestos-related disease.  There is reportedly a higher incidence of mesothelioma amongst teachers. 

Last year, Marion Potts, a 63 year old, who had devoted her life to teaching died after developing mesothelioma.  Coroner Keith Wiseman who recorded her death said of the industrial disease: “It is turning into a matter of major concern”.

The Department for Education is now reviewing its policy on the management of asbestos in school buildings and has launched a consultation asking for the opinions and views of those who have this responsibility. The DoE will also take evidence from members of the Asbestos in Schools Steering Group.

In June 2013 the Committee on Carcinogenicity (CoC) reported  that children are far more vulnerable to developing mesothelioma than adults, with a five times increased risk of the disease where asbestos exposure commences at age five compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.

Following the present consultation of the management of asbestos in schools the Government will publish a report in June 2014.  The consultation closes on 31 March 2014.

Daniel Easton from the industrial diseases team at Leigh Day said:

“Exposure to asbestos in schools is a lethal hazard that affects parents, teachers and caretakers, and more worryingly our children who attend these schools.

“Government guidance highlights the possible presence of asbestos in schools, including in wall panels and partitions, ceiling tiles and floor tiles.

“Disturbing asbestos can release fibres which may in future years trigger mesothelioma.  Reported cases show teachers having been exposed to asbestos from simply pinning their pupils’ work to the walls.

“We hope that the review will result in effective support being offered to schools so that nothing stops the complete removal of asbestos in every school.

“Only by doing this can we be sure of a totally safe environment for our children, if this doesn’t happen we will be storing up a terrible problem for tomorrow’s generation.”

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