Asbestos dust still present in 90% of UK schools
It is believed that every year up to 300 former pupils of UK schools die from exposure to asbestos dust along with 15 teachers. These shocking statistics come at a time when the UK government find themselves under mounting pressure to deal with the remaining asbestos in public buildings.
The national union of teachers (NUT) is the representative body for teachers in the UK. The NUT say 90% of schools still contain asbestos, but a survey found 44% of teachers had not been told if their school contained asbestos. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 1 out of 3 teachers said they had experienced an accident where asbestos was involved and believe they had placed their health at risk.
The Right to Know: Asbestos in Schools Wales campaign spoke to BBC news about how this issue has been kicked to touch several time by government officials in Wales for many years. They feel the government’s current stance on asbestos is that it only becomes a threat to human life when made airborne, releasing hazardous fibers into the air. With many old buildings containing this substance, material can easily become dislodged from broken ceiling tiles or nails in the wall.
“I don’t care who takes responsibility, I want somebody to take responsibility.
This is too important to get embroiled in some form of party politics or some big issues between the Welsh government and the UK government.” said Clement-Evans, lawyer for The Right to Know, asbestos campaign group.
Due to the latency period of infection, patients are not aware of their condition until 30 or 40 years later, by then mesothelioma will have developed extensively through the respiratory system of the patient.
One such victim was Anglesey woman Gwyneth Bonnet, a lecture and teacher at Coleg Menai’s old Pencraig college who had taught during the 1990s.
A coroner’s report concluded that Mrs Bonnet had died of an “industrial disease”, medically known as, mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer.
Christine Blower, general secretary, speaking on behalf of the of NUT said: “There has to be a proper audit to determine the scale of the problem”. A large scale project of this size would take a number of years and millions in taxpayers pounds. This has been the general response of the government’s underwhelming engagement with this circus.
Whether or not the government is willing to deal with this problem, it will be a recurring issue with mesothelioma cancer rates set to peak within the next 10 to 15 years according to the cancer research UK.
During the 1960s and 70s the UK was one of the highest users of asbestos in the building and manufacturing industries. Many public buildings and schools used the deadly material in ceiling tiles, wall panels and insulation padding. This damaging legacy has left Britain with one of the highest cancer mortality rates in Europe; with 2000 deaths annually. Figures taken from the World Health Organisation states that Britain holds 17.8 deaths per million of population, yet the unignorable figures have not yet sparked the action that is required.