Is Asbestos an Issue in Our Schools?

Spill Response Expo blog post 1

Nearly a quarter of schools in England (23%) have not released how much asbestos is in their buildings and how they are managing the potential risks that come with it, Government officials are warning. With just 77% of schools responding within the original timeframe, the deadline was extended to the 15th February 2019, in order for the remaining 23% to respond to the Government. Suggestions are being made that schools are avoiding to announce whether they have asbestos present in their buildings, to avoid paying for the removal of the ‘ticking time bomb’.

A reason for the low response rate could be that 61% of schools are outside of the Local Education Authority (LEA) control - including academies and free schools. Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999 but was regularly used in the construction of buildings right up until the ban was enforced, including the construction of schools. This being said, much of the asbestos in schools was installed during the period between 1940-1970, which puts the condition of the material in a deteriorating state. When asbestos breaks down, harmful fibres are more commonly released - meaning that phased removal, with priority given to the most dangerous materials, is the only practical way to ensure the safety of the schools.

In 2014-15, approximately £300,000 was spent in the removal of asbestos from royal households, with this, there are plans to spend several billion pounds to restore the Houses of Parliament, which includes the removal of asbestos (BBC News). It begs the question for the education system that if asbestos removal is good enough for royal households and politicians, why should schools, teachers, and their pupils settle for anything less than the same? In March 2017, a survey carried out by the Teachers’ Union found that just 46% of teachers had been told that their school contained asbestos, but half of those had not been told where it was located. This establishes ethical issues for teachers, as it has been reported by the National Education Union that over 200 teachers have died since 2001 from Mesothelioma - a form of cancer that is closely associated with asbestos. Again, a statistic from the National Union of Teachers states that teachers are now dying from Mesothelioma at an average of 17 per year, up from three per year during 1980-85. Furthermore, children who are exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to contract the disease than adults aged 30, Government research has found.

Because asbestos breaks down over the course of several decades, the condition of the material is becoming increasingly less stable. Due to large quantities of asbestos being used in the construction of schools in the 1980s - a growing number of harmful fibres are being released, potentially affecting teachers and students. If your business specialises in the detection, management, testing or removal of hazardous materials such as asbestos, then the Hazardous Materials Expo is the best trade show for you. If you want to see the Hazardous Material sector’s leading businesses and individuals, then follow the link at the top of the page to register for your free ticket.
If you would like to be a part of the Contamination Series Expo, please get in contact with Danny Rogers at daniel.rogers@prysmgroup.co.uk or call 01179 902005.