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Asbestos in Schools, how big a problem is it?

Asbestos in Schools, how big a problem is it?

Posted on Monday 3rd October 2016 by Graham

As with many commercial buildings the majority of schools built in the UK before the year 2000 are likely to have used and contain asbestos.

So just how big a problem is this for those working within these schools and of course our children?

A report commissioned by the Medical Research Council found that of the 33,600 schools in the UK, more than 75% contain asbestos. 14,000 schools were constructed in the UK after the second world war and almost all those built pre-1975 contain asbestos.

Many more deaths to come over the next three decades

Experts are predicting that the problem is so serious that we will see many more asbestos related deaths over the next three decades. Asbestos related diseases, such as mesothelioma, are normally associated with the construction industry and dockyard workers is now a very real and serious problem within our ageing schools.

At one point the UK was the world`s biggest user of asbestos because of its insulating and fire retardant qualities, however this now means that we also have one of the highest rates of mesothelioma across the world, and this could certainly increase if we do not tackle the issue of asbestos in our schools head on!

In the UK alone, 40,000 people have died from mesothelioma and these include teachers and those who were exposed as schoolchildren, according to Asbestos In Schools a UK based campaign group and a further 60,000+ have unknowingly been affected, says Professor Sir Anthony Newman Taylor, director of research and development at the National Heart and Lung Institute.

Where can asbestos be found in schools?

So where would you expect to find asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in a school?

  • Asbestos lagging used as thermal insulation on old pipes and boilers
  • Sprayed asbestos which was used for thermal insulation, fire protection, partitioning and ducts
  • Asbestos-insulating board (AIB) widely used for fire protection, thermal insulation, partitioning and ducts
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Floor tiles
  • Cement roofing and guttering
  • Textured coatings

"Am I likely to be at risk?"

As with most cases, asbestos-containing materials will only be an issue or a risk in schools is if they are disturbed or possibly damaged because of maintenance, repair or construction.

As well as tradesmen or women, school caretakers could be at risk due to the nature of their work if asbestos is disturbed while carrying out their duties. Add to that the possible risk to others from fibres released which could affect others working in the school and our children.

Any asbestos-containing materials that are in a good state of repair and that`s unlikely to be damaged or disturbed does not pose a significant risk to your health as long as it is properly managed of course. Therefore, teachers and pupils are unlikely to be at risk. However, I must stress that they should not undertake activities that could possibly damage any ACMs, such as simply pinning or tacking work to insulation board or ceiling tiles as this could result in fibres being released in to the air.

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