Almost 50% of Primary Schools Contain Asbestos

Out of a total 11,217 state-funded primary schools in England, at least 5,196 contain asbestos. This is according to the results of an investigation, led by claimant personal injury firm, Stephensons Solicitors.[1]

The Law Firm was prompted to launch its investigation after nearly 23% of schools failed to respond to UK Government deadline (February 2019), set by the Department of Education (DoE), which invited every school to report how much asbestos was contained in their buildings[2] – published findings from the DoE’s Asbestos Management Assurance Process in schools survey have been promised in due course.

Subsequently, the occupational disease specialist submitted a freedom of information (FOI) request to 152 local education authority areas, of which 105 responded. Of course, the number of asbestos-containing primary schools could be higher than 5,196, but information regarding the remaining 3,791 schools, held by 47 non-responsive local education authority areas, was not provided.

What is more, academies and free schools, which now represent the majority of schools in England, are no longer required to report to their local education authority on asbestos, as it is deemed to be an issue outside of their control.

For these reasons, Stephensons Partner, Kate Sweeney, believes that this is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and is ‘calling for all schools and local education authorities to publicly disclose if asbestos is on the premises and the measures being taken to manage it’.

The Government’s Public Accounts Committee has previously called for the DoE to ‘name and shame’ schools that are unwilling to cooperate with public inquiries in respect of asbestos.

On the subject of industrial disease data, we reported, in edition 273 of BC Disease News (here), that more than 300 teachers had died of asbestos-induced mesothelioma since the turn of the century. However, asbestos only presents a health risk if it is disturbed or damaged, thereby releasing fibres into the atmosphere.

For asbestos exposure in children (5-years-old), the Government has been advised that the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is around 3.5 times greater than in an adult first exposed at 25-years-old and around 5 times greater than in an adult first exposed at 30-years-old.

 

[1] Camilla Turner ‘Asbestos found in nearly half of local authority run primary schools, new figures show’ (3 July 2019 The Telegraph) <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/07/03/asbestos-found-nearly-half-local-authority-run-primary-schools/> accessed 4 July 2019.

[2] Mark Ellis, ‘Asbestos danger at 5,000 primary schools puts children and teachers at risk’ (1 July 2019 The Mirror) <https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/asbestos-danger-5000-primary-schools-17325850> accessed 4 July 2019.