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Information on asbestos in schools Research Papers Asbestos Policy Suggested Improvements Checking asbestos management Asbestos Guidance for 'System Built' schools
A summary of the main issues Reports of Incidents and Media Articles Investigative programmes, interviews and personal experiences Misleading statements used by those in authority Contact

Asbestos in Schools

The aim of this site is to inform parents, teachers and support staff about asbestos in schools. It gives guidance on how to improve the management of asbestos in schools. It aims to encourage openness in the UK Government's policy towards asbestos in schools.



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NEW FOR PARENTS

Simple school asbestos check list for parents

- for print version click here -

Assess your school's asbestos management.

Free and confidential. Sponsored for 100 schools by Joint Teaching Unions and ATaC

This search facility enables you to search for any school, authority, incident, personality, press article, parliament or government action, or other specific wording or asbestos research that we have reported

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INFORMATION AND GUIDANCE

See the latest warning from HSE to the Departments of Education in England, Scotland and Wales: “No gas masks should be worn or handled by children or teachers... unless it is clearly certified as safe to do so.” (9 May 2014)

Peter Robinson, Asbestos Consultant 19th May 2014: “The encouragement from some organisations that wartime steel helmets and gas masks should be made safe for use in schools should be treated with great caution. I have no doubt that a World War 1 steel helmet can, in competent hands, be made entirely safe, as long as all cloth elements are removed, leaving only steel.

World War II gas masks are a quite separate issue. The Crocidolite (blue asbestos) was contained in the filter of these masks but it was finely milled and would inevitably leak out. Nobody competent is going to declare a cloth bag, cloth straps and even deteriorating rubber as thoroughly cleaned of Crocidolite. These gas masks have no place in the hands of children or even inside school display cases where, as years pass, the knowledge of the risk posed becomes forgotten.

On the other hand, there are companies hiring relatively modern, asbestos-free gas masks to schools, which can be safely handled by children. Given contemporary World War II photographs to view and modern gas masks to handle, it is unlikely that there will be any loss of educational experience, apart from breathing the asbestos which was part of authentic 1940s Britain.”

(There are reports of masks being used for historical reenactments in schools)

gas mask

WWII gas masks are potentially dangerous as they can release asbestos fibres. They can also be contaminated with harmful chemicals from previous use in gas drills. In addition some post war gas masks can release asbestos fibres and can be contaminated.
Tests have shown that asbestos fibres can be inhaled by wearing the masks.(1) Asbestos fibres can also be released from handling the masks, filters or carrying bag.

(1) Respirable Fibre Release from gas mask filters ISRP Conference Edinburgh 2002 Robin Howie Associates. Investigation into the potential exposure from an asbestos containing gas mask filter Report number: S0713/55 ENV Surveys Ltd 2 Aug 2013

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April 2013 - Does your school have any heaters like the ones in these pictures?
An updated warning May 2013

asbestos heater in school 1

asbestos heater in school 2

If so, it is recommended that they are checked by a qualified asbestos consultant and any recommended remedial action followed up.  These heaters, which may be free-standing or built into walls, are known to have released asbestos fibres into classrooms in a school in Wales, contributing to its closure by the Council late last year.  Such heaters, which have been in use since the 1950s, may in some cases contain unsealed or damaged asbestos insulating board, which could be blown into classrooms.

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee has issued a more detailed warning about these heaters. It now contains detailed pictures of the interior and exterior

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FOR PARENTS

Simple school asbestos check list for parents

Also useful for Governors, headteachers, teachers and support staff

for print version click here

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Oct 2012 DfE guidance on asbestos management in schools Introductory, simple guidance for school staff and management. Also useful for parents wanting a better understanding of asbestos in their children’s schools.

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Information:The joint teaching unions and asbestos consultants association, ATaC, are assessing the standard of asbestos management in 100 schools. If you wish to volunteer your school then details are here.

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SUMMARY

If asbestos is damaged or deteriorating then the fibres can be released and breathed in. Mesothelioma is a cancer that is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos. A large exposure can cause mesothelioma and so can small exposures, particularly as each exposure is cumulative. There is no known threshold below which there is no risk. Lung cancer can also be caused by exposure to asbestos but it is considered that the exposures will normally have to be greater than the very low levels in the case of mesothelioma.

The majority of schools contain asbestos. The teaching unions consider that total removal is the safest option, whereas the Government consider that "managing" asbestos is the best system.  If asbestos is in a good condition and undamaged then an effective system of management can be effective. However there is increasing evidence that a significant number of schools are not managing their asbestos effectively, and that in many cases the asbestos is not in good condition. Much of it is hidden and a normal asbestos survey will not identify the fact that fibres are being given off, only comprehensive air-testing can determine that. 

The effective management of asbestos in schools is essential because children are particularly vulnerable to developing disease after an exposure to asbestos.

How to check your school's asbestos management
Many schools have good asbestos management procedures and this site gives simple guidance on how parents and teachers can check that this is the case and outlines their right to do so.
Information on asbestos in schools

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Where asbestos can be found in school buildings. It identifies the risks and outlines the history of past exposure by teachers and children
It is based on this paper

Asbestos Policy Suggested Improvements Policies that have allowed these exposures to happen, How the management of asbestos can be improved
It is based on this paper

Guidance for System built schools Identifying whether there is a problem. Methods for sealing cracks and gaps. Training and cautions. Control measures. Who should carry out the inspection and subsequent work. Tests to confirm the effectiveness of the work.

Downloadable Papers and briefings

 

Information on asbestos in schools Closely referenced, factual paper.
Closely referenced, factual paper.

System Built Schools

If you download any of these papers please also download this one page update of 17 April 2009

Release of Asbestos Fibres in System built schools (Part 1)
Release of Asbestos Fibres in System built schools (Part 2)
Notes on the problem of asbestos in schools and Government policies July 2010. Latest copy of background lecture notes given to asbestos consultants, medical experts, scientists, safety officers, solicitors, HSE Head of Asbestos Policy, Teachers Unions and MPs
Managing Asbestos in Schools - Frequently asked questions HSE paper which includes: What is asbestos?.... Why is asbestos dangerous?... Where is asbestos found in schools? .... and management roles and duties.
Misleading Statements by those in Authority

These statements are often made as part of authorities responses to incidents or queries.

The responses are briefly analysed and the flaws in them identified. Factual references and authorities are given or you can email us for more detail.

If asbestos is in good condition and not likely to be disturbed then it is usually safer to manage it than it is to remove it.”

Major refurbishments undertaken under BSF would normally include the removal of all asbestos, and any deteriorating material would normally be identified by a type 2 survey and removed.”
DCSF have issued a questionnaire "that will give a comprehensive picture about how
schools and Local Authorities are managing asbestos in their system buildings"
There is no need for panic, especially in schools because children are involved. If it is properly managed there is no evidence to suggest they’re at risk. There is also no evidence to suggest asbestos can affect children more than adults.
More Information

If you would like to be kept up to date on developments and papers as they are released please click here.

A further paper will be added to the web-site that discusses Government, HSE and DfES policy and the reasons why those policies have resulted in frequent asbestos incidents in schools with staff and pupils being exposed to asbestos.

The paper is in the final stages of completion.

Links

www.schoolasbestosaction.co.uk gives parents the ability to check their own school's asbestos management and gives them the facts to assess the effectiveness of the plan. The site is also a campaigning site with a list of common sense measures the government, the HSE, LEAs and schools should adopt to make management effective.

Link to the British Asbestos Newsletter

Link to the Asbestos Victims Support Forum

Link to the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) is formed from the union members of the Asbestos in Schools Group (AiS). It works in conjunction with the AiS and supports its aim and objectives. It has launched a new Website www.juac.org.uk.

Founded in 2010, Joint Union Asbestos Committee protects education workers by raising awareness of asbestos in schools, seeking improved management of asbestos in education sector buildings and ultimately to seek the safe removal of the asbestos. JUAC comprises appointed representatives from the six major teaching unions (ASCL, , ATL , NASUWT, NAHT NUT, Voice) and the four major general industrial unions (UNISON, Unite the Union, UCATT and the GMB).

If you’re interested in finding out further information, please email Julie Winn (julie.winn@juac.org.uk). You can also follow the the Committee on Facebook

Link to 'Right to Know' "Right to Know: Asbestos in Schools Wales campaign, is calling for the creation of a central accessible database that registers asbestos in schools throughout Wales. A central database is required so .. we can assess the extent of the asbestos issue in our schools, manage the asbestos and plan for the future. This is essential for our children and all those who work or visit our schools.

Currently, parents do not have the Right to Know if asbestos is present in their child’s school. In the age of freedom of information, and given the dangers related with asbestos is this really acceptable? The Right to Know campaign calls on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to put measures in place, to ensure that parents and guardians of children across Wales, can easily access information about the presence and management of asbestos in all school buildings."


LATEST NEWS ON OPENNESS
AND GOVERNMENT POLICY

 

-asbestos reports and incidents at this link-

Includes:

  • Reports of asbestos exposures in schools
  • Prosecutions for exposing people to asbestos in schools
  • BBC investigation asbestos in schools
  • National and local media investigations and reports
  • Media on Parliamentary debates and Reports

There have been two Parliamentary questions about progress on preventing the on-line sale of Second World War gas masks containing asbestos and their postage. The questions and answers are at this link.

Comment: The responses appear extraordinary for the following reasons:

  • The answer to preventing on-lines sale is similar to answers given over the last nine months and yet the sale and postage continues unabated. For instance there is no warning on the E-Bay web-site although HSE were warned about the sale of gas masks on E-Bay in 2002. HSE and Trading Standards appear unable to stop the illegal sale of masks they identify as dangerous.
  • The Transport Minister’s answer appears to be at odds with the answer from the Minister with responsibility for enforcing the EU REACH regulations. The Transport Minister appears to condone the postage of gas masks containing asbestos although one of his colleagues appears to consider it illegal.
  • The advertisements are at this link on ebay and include the most dangerous type

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There has a Parliamentary question asking what steps the Secretary of State of State is taking to monitor the standards of asbestos management in schools. The question and answer is at this link

Comment: The question was asked as it is unclear whether HSE will undertake any more proactive inspections since they completed a round of inspections of schools outside local authority control last December. The Minister has avoided answering the question.  A follow up question has been tabled to establish what the situation actually is.

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Caerphilly County Borough Council aims to remove asbestos-containing materials from 37 of its schools. The £800,000 project .. will see amosite asbestos products removed from occupied areas of school buildings around the county.... Asbestos insulation boards are common in many of the affected schools and will be removed from ceilings, wall panels and vent shafts to reduce the risk of accidental disturbance.... Once completed, the programme of works will see 95 per cent of Caerphilly county borough schools free from amosite asbestos products within occupied areas of the school building. The remaining five per cent of schools affected will have their amosite asbestos materials boarded over and sealed. ... Cabinet members agreed funding for the asbestos removal works and commended the proactive work of the council to remove this risk from school buildings... The education capital health and safety budget together with corporate health and safety unallocated reserves, will be used to fund the works.

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Increase in Mesothelioma deaths HSE has just published the mesothelioma statistics for 2012.  The numbers have significantly increased... Statisticians are now expressing doubt over their future projections as increasingly people are dying from every day exposures not related to the high risk occupational exposures of the past...

2,535 people died of mesothelioma in 2012 ~ This has increased from 2,291 in 2011 ~ Female deaths have increased from 360 in 2011 to 409 in 2012 ~ An increase of 14% ~ The Female deaths are not expected to peak until ‘well beyond 2020’ ~ This is later than male deaths as a higher proportion of female deaths are not work related ~ Male deaths have increased from 1,931 in 2011 to 2,126 in 2012 ~ An increase of 9% ~ Male deaths were expected to peak ‘towards the end of the decade.’ ~ The date of the peak has gradually been extended and these latest figures add to the uncertainty ~ There is an uncertainty about future projections as the model was based on historic high level industrial exposures and less is known about the level and extent of exposure after 1980.

Comment: In other words a greater proportion of people are now dying from exposures that are typical of those experienced in schools.

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Enforcement action taken against 13% of schools for failing to safely manage their asbestos. HSE has today published its report on inspections of 153 schools outside local authority (LA) control in England, Scotland and Wales, including foundation, voluntary aided, independent, academy and free schools. .. The inspectors were specifically instructed to assess the standards of asbestos management and not to examine the condition of asbestos in the schools.

The inspections show that almost thirty years after being told to identify their asbestos and introduce a system of asbestos management, a significant number of schools are still not safely managing their asbestos. A summary with key HSE  messages, the full report and a list of schools inspected is at this link. ...The key points are:

  • 44 schools received written advice or an improvement notice (29%)
  • Of which 20 schools had enforcement action taken and were issued an Improvement Notice (13%). As a comparison 6% had enforcement action taken in a similar round of inspections of 400 small and medium sized businesses
  • Improvement Notices were issued for:
    • 8              No written asbestos management plan
    • 8              Failure to undertake a survey/ assessment of the presence of asbestos
    • 2              Failure to effectively manage the risk or implement a suitable system to manage the risk.
    • 2              Inadequate training of maintenance personnel. (No assessment was made whether governors, headteachers, teachers or support staff were trained)
    • 37%        Of those schools who were responsible for their own maintenance had not trained their maintenance personnel.
    • 46%        Did not have a comprehensive system in place to ensure that anyone who may disturb asbestos was told of its presence.
    • 23%        Did not have an asbestos management plan.
    • 15%        Did not have an asbestos management survey. Others had failed to keep their records up to date.

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We are very saddened to hear that Carole Hagedorn has died.

Carole was an inspiration to all of us. She had been a teacher and was exposed to asbestos at school. Following her diagnosis of mesothelioma almost six years ago she fought hard and successfully to raise the profile of asbestos in schools and to ensure that others do not suffer in the way she has.

She will be much missed and our thoughts and prayers are with Vince and their family.

Australia ban on gas masks In Australia a law was passed 21 years ago banning the sale of gas masks containing asbestos:

“The permanent ban on gas masks with asbestos breathing devices came into effect on 15 September 1993.  Gas masks with asbestos breathing devices are dangerous to the user’s health. If the mask is used as a breathing apparatus, the user is exposed to asbestos fibres through the filter. This can lead to their developing mesothelioma. It is illegal for businesses to sell gas masks containing asbestos, even if they advertise them as collectable items.Suppliers can face heavy fines and recalls of non-compliant products if they trade in these banned products. For more details, view Penalties and consequences.

It is only now that in Britain HSE are consulting with Trading Standards to prevent the sale and postage of these dangerous masks. Thousands have been sold and posted over the years in the UK and are still for sale on E-bay, including masks of a type that are known to contains crocidolite:

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Lords written answers At this link are written answers on air sampling in schools, the exclusion of asbestos from the Property Data Survey (PDSP) and on measures taken by the Government. (14 May 2014)

Comment: The answer again describes why asbestos surveys are not part of the on the ground surveys although DfE are aware that is not what we are asking for. We are asking for existing data on asbestos to be centrally collated in the PDSP asset management system (AMS). 

At the recent DfE Asbestos Steering Group “The Chair had agreed to ask the question why asbestos was excluded from the Property Data Survey Programme.  The answer was that the PDS is a different survey.  How best to centralise the collection of asbestos information will come out in the DfE review.  There is also a debate to be had about holding and allocating funding for asbestos.”

DfE have stated that they are considering how to collate information on asbestos. We will continue to raise this issue until a workable solution is found.  

 

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Justice Select Committee. Watch the hearing. For a brief explanation of why the hearing took place look at at this link.

Comment: This morning’s (13th May) hearing on mesothelioma compensation encapsulated the problems in gaining justice for low exposure mesothelioma claims. Doug Jewell of the Asbestos Victims Support Forum, Adrian Budgen of Irwin Mitchell solicitors, Helen Buczynsky of Unison  and Ian McFall of Thompsons solicitors put the claimants case across very well. The defendants solicitors and the insurance industry expressed their concern for mesothelioma victims, but then failed to give any comfort that they will make the claims process any easier.

  • Helen Buczynsky mentioned the JUAC response and the particular problem of public liability asbestos risks claims from former pupils. At 1hr 12mins into the video the Defendant lawyers provided further evidence why the Risk Protection Arrangement is so necessary. Mr Adamson, a defendant lawyer, stated that in public liability claims the relevant insurance policy is one in place ten years before a claim is made. This  underlines why the wording on any existing public liability asbestos risk insurance policy should be brought in line with the law on employers liability insurance -  in as much as the injury occurs at the time of exposure and not at the onset of symptoms.
  • The statistics quoted by Mr Klaiber, of Zurich Insurance, give a misleading impression about the number of non-employees developing mesothelioma. That is because most former pupils will not claim as they are in all likelihood unaware of their exposure, the majority of cases therefore do not progress as it is very difficult to collate evidence. The Dianne Willmore case also highlights that the insurance industry and their lawyers will fight such case all the way to the Supreme Court.

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HSE warning “No gas masks should be worn or handled by children or teachers.” (9 May 2014)
Some teachers and pupils have handled and worn WWII gas masks in lessons about the War. HSE has carried out tests on various types of vintage gas masks both from WWII and later. They found that the majority contain asbestos, although some did not. However one cannot tell by looking at them which do and which do not. They have therefore strengthened their warning and have issued the following advice to the Departments of Education in England, Scotland and Wales: “No gas masks should be worn or handled by children or teachers... unless it is clearly certified as safe to do so.”

A large number of WWII gas masks have been sold on E-Bay and other sites. HSE and Trading Standards are taking measures to prevent the future sale and postage of the masks that contain asbestos as it is prohibited under the law.

See also a warning issued by JUAC and the AiS in October 2013

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BBC 5 Live discussion on asbestos in schools. A report on asbestos in schools with interviews with Janet Dutton a teacher who has mesothelioma, Professor Phillips (the chairman of the Committee on Carcinogenicity) and Michael Lees. On BBC website Monday 21st April until Sunday 27th April. (Victoria Derbyshire/Chris Warburton programme. Begins 38 mins 30 secs from start, after report on gambling)

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More Questions have been asked in the House of Lords and Commons about asbestos in schools. The questions and answers are at this link

  • Lord Alton of Liverpool asked about the vulnerability of children and the incidence of asbestos related diseases in children and teachers.
  • Dr Huppert asked the Secretary of State for Education if he will issue specific guidance to schools about removing asbestos from premises

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The All Party Parliamentary Group in the House of Commons produced a booklet - "Asbestos in Schools - the Need for Action". It has now been updated and re-issued. The booklet forms a basis for a long term solution to the problem of asbestos in schools. A summary of the booklet is at this link.

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AiS Response to DfES Review of Asbestos Policy in Schools. This is an extensive and detailed response to the questionnaire sent by DfE

Background Papers also submitted:

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Cross Party Early Day Motion has been tabled in the House of Commons. "That this House welcomes the Department for Education's policy review for the management of asbestos in schools; notes that the review was called following the Committee on Carcinogenicity's conclusion that children are more vulnerable to asbestos exposure than adults; further notes the evidence given to the Education Select Committee by a leading epidemiologist that between 200 and 300 people could die each year from their asbestos exposure experienced as a child at school; and calls on the Government to look to Australia where a National Strategic Plan for asbestos has recently been introduced which will establish long-term strategic policies for the eradication of asbestos disease and will set systems, timelines and processes for the safe removal of asbestos materials from public and commercial buildings, with priority being given to schools."

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Submission to the Government's Asbestos Policy Review

The control levels are not safe levels for adults, but the risk is significantly greater for children. However no allowance is made for this in the asbestos regulations and accompanying guidance, consequently schools are treated as any other workplace. Because of this staff and children have been allowed into rooms where there are airborne asbestos fibres at levels that cumulatively can cause mesothelioma. This paper puts the case for the introduction of an environmental level for schools which would be significantly lower than the present workplace levels as it would recognise the particular vulnerability of children.........

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DfE Policy Review: Asbestos management in Schools. Call for evidence closes 31 March 2014.

Policy review: asbestos management in schools call for evidence document. (PDF, 213KB, 9 pages).

Consultation description: The Department for Education is reviewing its policy on asbestos management in schools and wants to hear opinions and ideas from anyone with an interest in this important subject. In particular, we would like to hear from those that are involved in the day-to-day management of asbestos in schools, about their experiences and how they think DfE can support schools to fulfil their responsibilities.Ways to respond Complete a response form and either

Email to: asbestos.review@education.gsi.gov.uk ; or write to: DfE Asbestos Policy Review, Central Capital Unit – 4th Floor, Department for Education, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BT

Comment: Please respond fully and circulate the call for evidence as widely as possible.

  • The review calls for evidence from all organisations and individuals with an interest in the issue.
  • That includes local authorities, schools, teachers, support staff, governors, unions, parents, epidemiologists, scientists, risk experts, asbestos consultants, politicians, victims, doctors, solicitors, coroners- everyone who is involved with, or has been affected by asbestos in schools.
  • It is essential that DfE is provided with wide ranging evidence that clearly shows the scale of the problem and whether or not their present policies are working.
  • Much of the evidence of failures in asbestos management and the exposure of staff and pupils is of a confidential nature. That evidence, however, is essential so that the true picture is provided.  
  • The confidentiality of the evidence will be respected, so please submit it in a manner that achieves that and where necessary with names and locations removed.
  • The consultation questions are of a limited nature. Do not be restricted by them. If you have something to say then please say it.
  • This is the chance to make a fundamental difference to Government policies on asbestos in schools.

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    We are very sorry to hear of Hazel MacDonald's death. The family of a teacher who died from asbestos-related cancer is planning legal action against Luton Council. Ian MacDonald, of Harpenden, said he wanted the council to treat all asbestos products with plasticiser. His wife Hazel was exposed to asbestos fibres while teaching at Denbigh Primary School in the town. Her inquest concluded she died as a result of inhaling airborne fibres..... Mr Macdonald said: "I now want to take the matter to court to reverse the council's decision to leave asbestos in place in schools. "For the sake of children the fibres should be covered by a plasticiser to keep them bonded. "Asbestos in roof voids is open to air currents. Our advertising campaign is to raise awareness of the problem and also to gather evidence by recruiting the help of former staff and pupils"...... Out of the 63 council schools in Luton, 59 are recorded as containing asbestos.

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    House of Lords. Welsh government responsibilities for asbestos in schools.The Welsh Government is responsible for both the management of asbestos in schools and for developing policies for the control and management of asbestos in schools. HSE’s role is for regulation and guidance... Comment: This is an important statement, as the Welsh Government had stated in response to earlier correspondence that “asbestos is a non-devolved matter and responsibility for the subject lies with the Health and Safety Executive and not with Welsh Government.” The ‘Right to Know’ campaign had challenged this statement and had strongly advocated that the overall responsibility for asbestos in schools rests with the Welsh Government –which has been proved correct... The answers also confirmed that the Welsh Government would be shortly issuing asbestos guidance to schools.

    The following questions were asked in the House of Lords by Lord Wigley (Hansard - 15 Jan 2014 : Column WA26)

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether it is their intention that the asbestos awareness guidance for schools, issued by the Department for Education, be adopted in Wales
    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): The responsibility for the management of asbestos in schools in Wales is devolved to the Welsh Government and does not rest with the Department for Education. I understand, however, that the Welsh Government intends issuing similar guidance on asbestos management to schools in Wales shortly.

    Hansard further questions from Lord Wigley

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will clarify who has the overall responsibility for asbestos policy for schools in Wales.[HL4359]
    To ask Her Majesty’s Government whose responsibility it is to respond to the final report of the Committee on carcinogenicity insofar as schools in Wales are concerned.[HL4360]
    To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there are any plans to conduct a review of asbestos policy in Wales; and whose responsibility it would be to undertake such a review.[HL4361]
    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): The Health and Safety Executive has responsibility for regulations and guidance as it applies to the management and control of asbestos in all workplaces in Great Britain, including schools. However, within this framework, the development of policies for the management and control of asbestos in schools is a matter for the Welsh Government.
    The report by the Committee on Carcinogenicity was commissioned by the Department of Education. The report was a statement on the vulnerability of children to asbestos and made no recommendations; however, in England, the Department for Education is undertaking a review of its policy on asbestos management in schools. It is for the Welsh Government to decide whether they wish to review any policies as a result of the report.

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    House of Commons debate - 7 Jan 2014 on the third reading of the Mesothelioma Bill.

    Comment: The Bill will now pass into law... It was an excellent debate but regrettably amendments on a levy for mesothelioma research and increasing the compensation payment to 80% were defeated.

    The Minister and a number of MPs also raised the issue how increasing numbers of mesothelioma sufferers are victims of exposure in schools. The MPs were Jim Sheridan, Ian Lavery, Tracey Crouch, Kate Green, Mike Hancock and Sarah Wollaston... The Minister, Mike Penning MP,  responded that “It is important to remember that this is about employee liability in cases where the insurer cannot be found. A great deal has been said about public liability, but this scheme would not cover that. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that we will see more and more examples of schools in which pupils will have been affected, but that will be covered by public liability insurance. Schools and similar institutions are public places, so it will be a lot easier to find the insurer involved.” His statement shows a lack of understanding of the present situation where in general asbestos risk public liability insurance is unavailable in schools. This can include pupils, agency teachers, support staff and other non-employees. At this link is a paper titled "In general asbestos risk insurance is not available for School Children". The issue is explained in closely referenced detail including the implications for governors, the uninsured and the failure of DofE to resolve it.

    This underlines why it was important to raise the issue that a very large number of at risk people are excluded from this Bill. They were also excluded from the ‘Trigger issue.’ The insurance industry will not insure them and the Government have made no provision to meet any future claims. AiS raised the matter with the Government two years ago and will continue to do so until they provide a satisfactory solution.   

    Press reports:

    Asbestos cancer compensation law agreed - but MPs call for more research. A Westcountry Conservative MP has rebelled against the Government after urging ministers to increase funding to tackle a fatal lung cancer caused by asbestos. In the House of Commons, Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, warned it would be a "wasted opportunity" if the Mesothelioma Bill failed to secure more funding for research, warning the disease posed a risk to children in schools (Western Morning News - 7 Jan)

    Huddersfield MP backs new bill to help tackle "exploding time bomb" of asbestos in schools.....Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has hit out at global petrochemical giant BP in a debate on the "time bomb" of asbestos in schools.... Jim Sheridan, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, said 75% of the UK's secondary schools were contaminated by the deadly fibre, which causes the fatal lung cancer mesothelioma.... He said the disease, which to date has affected thousands of working-class ship workers, could soon start cropping up amongst teachers and schoolchildren exposed to asbestos in the classroom. (Huddersfield Examiner - 7 Jan)

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    Asbestos has been found at Holland House Infant School and Nursery in Sutton Coldfield during work to repair the heating system during the Christmas break.... The school will remain closed until ‘at least Monday, 13 January.

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    Help for teacher with Mesothelioma in Lancashire 3 Jan 2014: Janet Gent, who worked for Lancashire County Council at Walton High School, Nelson, from 1973 until 1981 as a home economics teacher, has been diagnosed with the fatal asbestos-related cancer... She believes she was exposed to asbestos dust and fibres while working at the school but Thompsons Solicitors.. understand neither she nor her colleagues were made aware by Lancashire County Council of the dangers they faced in their working environment. ..... Between 1983 and 1995, Janet was also employed by Lancashire County Council as a supply teacher at various schools in the two boroughs, including Gawthorpe, Barden, Walshaw, Ivy Bank, Habergham and St Theodore’s High Schools in Burnley and Primet High and Park High, Colne, Mansfield High, Brierfield, Gibfield Special School, Colne and Hendon Brook and Townhouse Schools in Nelson... Janet is calling on her former colleagues to get in contact with Thompsons to provide vital evidence about her working environment. Joanne Candlish, Head of the Liverpool Asbestos Team from Thompsons Solicitors... .“We are seeing more and more schoolteachers, support staff and even former pupils diagnosed with devastating asbestos-related conditions caused by being exposed in our schools.. It is vital that we trace Janet Gent’s co-workers to enable a full investigation to be carried out into her history of asbestos exposure. Mrs Gent needs and deserves to see justice done... ” If anybody can provide assistance regarding working conditions at either Walton High School or any of the schools where Mrs Gent worked, they are asked to contact Joanne Candlish as a matter of urgency on 0151 224 1644.

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    Australia 22 Dec: Schools containing asbestos will be required to place warning signs at their front gate after the Education Department was taken to court and ordered to lift its game following a series of safety breaches.... WorkSafe documents reveal that legal action was recently taken against the department for putting several schools at risk - despite the government previously insisting it had a ''comprehensive system'' to manage asbestos and keep students safe...... Under a binding agreement with the workplace authority, schools that have asbestos will now be required to erect warning signs on gates and buildings; hundreds of audits will be conducted over the the next 18 months; and principals will be properly trained in asbestos safety procedures........

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    UK Parliamentary debate mesothelioma compensation 2 Dec. The debate was an excellent one and the problem of asbestos in schools was raised and was not limited to compensation issues. It was raised by Jim Sheridan MP, Sarah Wollaston MP and Tracey Crouch MP. The extracts relevant to schools are at this link .For instance Dr Wollaston MP (Conservative): "The trouble is that the argument we take in this country that we should literally cover up asbestos is not good enough. The evidence shows that slamming doors and children kicking kick-boards around the classroom edges can increase the level of asbestos fibres in the air by about 6,000 times. We should go far further than we are doing; that is what happened in the United States. In 1980, the US conducted its first major audit of asbestos and introduced stringent regulations in 1986. As a result, the level of mesothelioma in the US has stabilised since 1999... in the UK ... that level continues to rise"

    The debate did not address the issue that children in Academy Schools are generally not covered by insurance and so some of the speakers covered in the extracts appear to be under the misconception that they are. The issue is covered here. There is a detailed update which covers further concerns over lack of insurance and has been sent to Ministers, Shadow Ministers, MPs and officials.

    The full debate can be read here

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    Teacher Marion Potts killed by asbestos she inhaled in classrooms (28 Nov). Southampton Coroner’s Court heard that the only place Mrs Potts could have come in contact with asbestos was in school walls, where it can be released by something as simple as putting up a display with drawing pins... Coroner Keith Wiseman said: “.. but I understand it’s turning into a matter of major concern. .. I hope all the necessary steps are taken in the future to ensure the elimination of this substance ... Mrs Potts particularly mentioned a variety of occasions such as basic matters like putting up a display with drawing pins where this material would come out of the walls or when they were damaged by pupils. . this is the only possible asbestos exposure identified.” He recorded a verdict of death from an industrial disease. ...Mrs Potts’ husband Michael said “These buildings are 50 years old and asbestos will come out because kids are always running around, banging into things and people stick things into the wall. She was never made aware of these dangers. That annoys me beyond belief .. as there has been a lot of complacency.” City council education boss Sarah Bogle said the council wanted to get rid of asbestos from all schools but did not have the funding. Cllr Bogle insisted the council was on top of the issue but could not confirm how many schools in Southampton contain asbestos. Pete Sopowski, Southampton rep for the National Union of Teachers, said teachers were very concerned about the situation... There’s a huge problem in schools because asbestos is there and is being managed... It’s a case of which schools don’t have it rather than which do. “The best thing to do is to have it totally removed but the Government doesn’t want to pay for it.“It would create jobs as well as protect staff and youngsters. Westminster will pay to have it removed from the Houses of Parliament but not from schools, it seems.” Mrs Potts worked in schools across the country throughout her career, including Hardley School in Holbury – now the New Forest Academy – and Romsey School, where she was head of English until she retired two years ago.

    Radio 2 Jeremy Vine follows up Marion Potts tragic death from mesothelioma with Michael Lees, the Work and Pensions Minister, a medical interview and an interview with a member of the public whose girlfriend teacher stapled work to her asbestos classroom walls in the last few weeks. Other reports of other recent experiences in schools and elsewhere. The programme can be played back for the next 7 days at this link. The piece starts 01:10:33 into the programme

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    International Moves on Asbestos. July 2013. Australian National strategic plan for asbestos management and awareness. It aims to identify all asbestos in public and commercial buildings. Prioritise removal of the most dangerous materials with an overall aim of the removal of all asbestos from public and commercial buildings by 2030. The Australian government clearly does not consider it is safer leaving asbestos in place and managing it. The paper has one apparent error as Britain has the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world. In 2010 Australia had 642 mesothelioma deaths with a population of 22.3 million = 28.8 mesothelioma deaths per million per annum. In 2010 Britain had 2,360 mesothelioma deaths with a population of 62.3 million = 37.8 mesothelioma deaths per million per annum.

    In 1986 USA audited the extent of friable asbestos in their schools, undertook a risk assessment, and because of the increased risk to children introduced stringent asbestos regulations specifically for schools. The incidence of mesothelioma in the USA has stabilised at about 14 per million per annum since 1999

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    Newsletter 131, 23 Nov: Warning to Schools from DfE and JUAC, Schools Minister meeting, increased teacher death rate, government review of asbestos policy - input needed

    1. WWII gas mask warning to schools from DfE and JUAC
    2. Meeting with the Schools Minister
    3. Number of school teachers dying of mesothelioma has increased
    4. Asbestos ripped out of school with crowbars. Failures in asbestos managment. School fined
    5. More than £1million needed to make school safe from asbestos
    6. Review of Government Policy on asbestos in schools - further evidence needed
    7. Sec of State and Schools Minister agreed to scrap the DfE Asbestos Steering Group

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    Education Questions H of C : The continued existence of the DfE Asbestos Steering Group? Today - 11 Nov - at Education Questions Annette Brooke MP sought public confirmation on the Government’s policy towards the continuation, or otherwise, of the Asbestos in Schools Steering Group. This was asked in light of the recent Guardian article that indicated the Secretary of State’s intention is to scrap it. Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): "May I be assured that the asbestos in schools steering group will continue, given the importance of developing a clear, up-to-date policy and strategy regarding asbestos?" Mr Laws: "We are still looking closely at the important issue of asbestos in schools, and we are beginning a review into this subject very shortly. I shall ensure that my hon. Friend has a full opportunity to contribute to the review."

    Comment: Tellingly the Minister avoided answering the question

    Guardian articleMinisters couldn't possibly make cuts to school asbestos monitoring... could they?’      SecEdLeak reveals plan to axe asbestos in schools group’  7 Nov  

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    Gas masks (11 Nov) The Minister has not yet confirmed whether or not DfE will issue a warning to schools about the dangers of gas masks, and whether or not HSE will issue a warning to the general public. However another article has been published: “New Forest District Council is alerting people to the risk of handling Second World War gas masks following a warning from the Joint Union Asbestos Committee. Schools, history societies and individuals who own the masks are being warned not to handle them or put them over their faces after tests show that asbestos fibres can be released and pose a health risk. Filters and carrying bags can also be contaminated. Councillor Di Brooks, New Forest District Council’s portfolio holder for health and leisure, said: “With the centenary of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of D-Day coming up in 2014, people may be thinking about using these masks for demonstrations but the advice is to stop using them immediately and avoid taking risks.”

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    Property Data Survey Programme (PDSP) In the first week of November the Secretary of State made a statement on the poor quality of the existing data given by local authorities to the PDSP. The on the ground inspections will now examine the condition of school buildings in these local authorities. This will lead to at least an eight month delay in the results being published and any action being taken

    Comment: It is a reasonable assumption that asbestos will continue to be specifically excluded from these inspections.One must question whether the existing data that had already been supplied to DfE included enlightening, and potentially embarrassing, information on asbestos. If so the Secretary of State has now ensured that it will not become public.

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    28 Oct .... "..Ministers have considered scaling back the Department for Education's work addressing the issue of asbestos in schools because of budget cuts,... A DfE document passed to ministers for comment in February,...... says the department could "stop policy work and reduce stakeholder engagement on asbestos". More than 100 teachers are reported to have died from mesothelioma, a cancer usually caused by asbestos, since 2000...."

    " A steering group of union reps, local authorities, governors and asbestos experts has been meeting DfE officials regularly about effective management of the substance in schools. The civil servant-drafted document warns: "This is an emotive policy area and closing down the current stakeholder group would be controversial … Furthermore, any isolated incident of a school closing due to asbestos will mean we need to be able to respond..." Guardian report.

    :JUAC Calls for Transparency as leaked report highlights DfE’s desire to scale back work on promoting effective asbestos management in schools. The confidential report suggests possible areas where cut backs at DfE headquarters could be made, including a suggestion that stakeholder involvement in raising awareness about the need to protect staff and children from the dangers of asbestos in schools should end, with the scrapping of the DfE Asbestos Steering Committee... JUAC Chair Julie Winn, said today: ‘It is depressing, but not entirely surprising, to learn that the DfE is considering this move. Working together with the union, employer, and school governor representatives, as well as the asbestos experts, is the best way for the DfE to address this long-standing health issue.  (Joint Union Asbestos Committee JUAC comprises the 10 unions: Association of School and College Leaders; Association of Teachers and Lecturers; National Association of Head Teachers; NASUWT; National Union of Teachers; Voice; plus the education sections of, UNISON, Unite UCATT and the GMB)

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    22 Oct ....Warning from JUAC "No gas mask of World War II vintage should ever be worn. ... Tests have shown that asbestos fibres can be inhaled by wearing the masks. Asbestos fibres can also be released from handling the masks, filters or carrying bags." The warning has a specific section on action points for schools as schools might be loaned them for history projects or pupils might bring them to school.

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    23 Aug ..... A former teacher died following exposure to asbestos while he was working at a Bideford school. Christopher Charlton, 62, worked at Grenville College ... between 1980 and 2008. He was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in December 2011 for which there was no treatment. An inquest heard he was exposed to asbestos contained in book cupboards and a store room at the college. Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland concluded Mr Charlton died of industrial disease: "I am satisfied he was exposed to asbestos and that caused the illness which killed him."

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    23 Aug ...Cwmcarn High School reopening delayed for second time... that date is now likely to be pushed back until November.   

    Cwmcarn School will not now re-open in September. Following the tragic death of an asbestos removal contractor in July the work to remove asbestos from the school was put on hold.  There are outstanding electrical distribution problems that have to be rectified before asbestos removal work can continue, and before the school can be reoccupied. These could take up to two months to complete. Follow the link to a briefing for a Caerphilly Council Cabinet meeting on 23rd August. The Council report underlines that, when asbestos is present, essential maintenance work cannot be carried out. This is a problem in many other schools.  

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    HSE Report Cwmcarn School 19 July. The HSE report on Cwmcarn sends out a dangerous message to all other schools of the standards of asbestos management and level of risk to pupils and staff HSE consider acceptable.

    Comment: The report is selective and deeply flawed. It runs contrary to the opinions of two firms of asbestos consultants, the Council, an independent assessor, the evidence – and common sense.  

    Many thousands of schools are in a dilapidated condition. As the condition of the buildings deteriorate then so does their asbestos.  They are unsafe. However the funds are not available to bring them up to an acceptable or safe standard. For a short comment on specific reports of dilapidated schools and the fundamental flaws in the HSE/Government handling of their asbestos click this link and look at July 20th

    Cwmcarn High school is in a similar condition but, contrary to all the evidence, HSE have declared it perfectly safe and that the asbestos management complies with the Regulations.  HSE’s actions justify Government’s policies. The Government can claim that, although it is undesirable for pupils to be taught in dilapidated schools, there is no risk to their health and therefore there is no particular urgency in refurbishing or replacing the schools. They are fundamentally wrong.

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    House of Commons Education Committee. Written Evidence submitted by the Asbestos in Schools Group (AiS). It examines the role and responsibilities of school governors, their training and skills. It examines how governors are affected by government policy in particular in academies and free schools. It examines their liability if a claim is made against the governing body for an asbestos related illness and questions the implications for recruitment. It makes simple recommendations. Extract: "Because of their lack of asbestos awareness many school governors are taking on the responsibility for school buildings without realising the legal and financial implications when they contain asbestos. ..In general pupils and non-employees are not insured for asbestos exposure risks in schools. Local authorities therefore self insure, however most academies or free schools do not have the resources to do so. The governing body are legally responsible for meeting any future claims, but in general there is no system in place to meet those claims." (Submitted Jan 2013. Published on HofC web site July 2013)

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    I July - Following the advisory committee conclusion that children are more at risk from exposure to asbestos UNISON has prepared a series of documents to help activists, representatives and parents who are concerned about Asbestos in Schools. They include a checklist for parents, a paper on asbestos in certain types of schools and advice on warm air heating systems. Follow the link to the relevant page on the UNISON site where you can download the documents.

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    Government advisory committee on cancer conclude: Children are more at risk from exposure to asbestos

    At 10am on 7th June the Government’s advisory Committee on Carcinogenicity (COC) publish their final statement that concludes children are more vulnerable to exposure to asbestos than adults - the younger the child the greater the risk.

    At the heading link is a newsletter that describes the findings and the implications for schools policy. It describes the Minister's promises of a review of school asbestos policy and the flaws in that promise. It describes the expert assessment of death rates and the action that other countries are taking now over asbestos strategy and the priority they are giving to schools.

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    Following the letter of complaint to the Minister (see below) , signed by the General Secretaries of nine teacher and support staff unions, HSE has decided to release its report into asbestos release in Cwmran school. JUAC (Joint Union Asbestos Campaign) welcomes this. This JUAC article describes the flaws in the Minister's and HSE positions and welcomes the Committee on Carcinogenicity report on the vulnerability of children to asbestos but expresses "diappointment that the publication of the long awaited final statement from the COC has been postponed to 7th June."

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    On 8th May the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) made a formal complaint to the Minister over HSE’s handling of the asbestos incident at Cwmcarn school. The letter is signed by the General Secretaries of nine teacher and support staff unions.  

    JUAC states “It is the opinion of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) that the way that HSE has treated this incident has sent completely the wrong message to other schools about the standards of asbestos management that they consider to be acceptable. The HSE’s lack of transparency and the confusion that has now arisen is unacceptable...There has been a lack of transparency surrounding the HSE investigation which has been carried out. A number of public decisions and statements have been made by HSE, the Department for Education (DfE) and the Minister, Mr David Laws MP based on the HSE report of that investigation, but the HSE has now advised that they do not intend to make the report public. Due to the serious and controversial nature of these decisions and statements and in the interests of transparency, we are writing to you to require the publication of the HSE report of its investigation...In conclusion JUAC requires the urgent publication of the HSE investigation report into Cwmcarn and repeats its calls for an independent review of the Government’s policy on asbestos in schools.”

    UNISON have released an additional summary of DfE's refusal to warn schools or give guidance over brown asbestos release from radiators.

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    HSE refuses FOI request for their report into the asbestos incident at School On 7th May HSE refused to release the report of their investigation and other documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) related to their investigation at Cwmcarn School. HSE state:

    “I can confirm that HSE holds information about this incident. However, the incident is currently under investigation and action arising from the above has not yet been completed... The information is therefore exempt from disclosure under section 12 (5)(b) of the Regulations (the course of justice, the ability of a person to get a fair trial or the ability of a public authority to conduct an enquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature) in that it is information held by HSE for the purposes of an investigation which may lead to a decision to institute criminal proceedings.”

    This contradicts the answer given by the Minister in a Parliamentary written answer on 24th April 2013 which stated that the HSE investigation was complete and that no enforcement action is required: “The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently concluded its investigation into the asbestos related incident at Cwmcarn High School in Wales and wrote to the school governors and local authority with its findings on 26 February....The HSE investigation concluded that there are appropriate asbestos management arrangements in place at the school as required under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and that no enforcement action is required.”

    Comment: HSE’s handling of the whole investigation into the asbestos incident and closure of Cwmcarn school has been unprofessional and has caused confusion amongst school staff, parents, pupils and the general public. The refusal to release the report of its investigation demonstrates a lack of transparency, and the contradictory statements emulating from the HSE and the Minister add to the confusion.

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    For the fourth time, a handful of countries allied to the asbestos industry have refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be added to the Rotterdam Convention’s list of hazardous substances. Civil society groups attending the Rotterdam Convention conference in Geneva are expressing  grave alarm that the Convention has been hijacked by the asbestos industry, which is determined to prevent the environmental and health protections of the Convention from being implemented. IBAS report on the final day is at this link.

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    On 8th May the Queen’s speech outlined a bill to compensate people suffering from mesothelioma who are unable to trace their employers insurance. (pages 62-63).. The bill applies to employers’ liability insurance and employers and does not apply to public liability insurance or non-employees. A former pupil will not be able to make a claim under the bill where an academy has been unable to obtain asbestos risk public liability insurance. We therefore still need to obtain answers from DfE how claims from former pupils will be met.

    Asbestos Victims Forum press release: “The Mesothelioma Bill in the Queen’s Speech 8 May 2013 provides for a payment to sufferers of the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma, from an insurer-funded scheme in cases where negligent exposure to asbestos is proved but the insurer of a defunct company cannot be traced...... Asbestos victims caution against claims that this is an act of generosity by insurers and a great government deal for asbestos victims.... Tony Whitston, Forum Chair says:“What appears to be a great deal brokered by government, and costing the insurance industry a small fortune, is in reality something entirely different. This scheme excludes 50% of asbestos victims, pays ‘average’ compensation only to victims dying from the cancer mesothelioma and then slashes average compensation by 30%. This scheme is not what we expected. It was presented as a fait accompli to asbestos victims and saves the insurance industry a small fortune at huge cost to asbestos victims. The Bill needs to be unpicked and repackaged if the victims’ best interests are going to be truly at its heart.”

    NASUWT Gen Sec:   "But we should also be remembering that buildings, and in particular many school buildings, still contain asbestos and leave pupils and those that teach and otherwise work with them at risk of contracting this terrible disease.... "Steps need to be taken to obviate this risk for the future through a programme of asbestos removal from schools and other public buildings."

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    Caerphilly Council will spend £1million on removing asbestos from Cwmcarn School and making it safe for reoccupation. There is extensive asbestos contamination above the suspended ceilings, asbestos insulating board (AIB) has been regularly damaged in the classrooms and heaters contain unsealed, damaged AIB and asbestos debris. HSL tests have confirmed that they release asbestos fibres into the classroom.

    Contrary to the evidence HSE stated it is “essentially uncontaminated” and a senior director gave evidence to the Education Select Committee that “it is perfectly safe to reopen that school.”  If the HSE advice had been followed then staff and pupils would potentially have been put at risk. At this link is an analysis and comment on the HSE report

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    On 13 March the Education Select Committee held a hearing on asbestos in schools. At this link is a detailed analysis and comment on the hearing by AiS and JUAC. Also look at two paragraphs below this describing flawed safety statements.

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    A recent inquest has heard how a teacher from Cirencester died because he was often exposed to asbestos at the schools where he worked.. Chiltern Gate School at High Wycombe and Warnham Court in West Sussex. David MacDonald, father of three, who was the Head Teacher at Amberley Ridge School in Stroud, died on 2 July 2012... A Specialist Consultant, Dr Robin Rudd ... stated that mesothelioma without asbestos exposure was a one in a million case but Mr MacDonald’s occupational history confirmed his exposure. The post mortem carried out on Mr MacDonald confirmed there was a very low level of asbestos fibres found in his lungs. The Coroner .. commented that low levels could occur in those exposed to asbestos many years before death and still be linked to the cause of death.

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    Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary a senior HSE director gave evidence to the Education Select Committee that Cwmcarn High School was “perfectly safe to reopen.” Expert opinion from two asbestos consultancy firms and Caerphilly Council disagree with his assessment. A report by the Council is highly critical of the HSL report and advice from HSE. It states: “…HSE issued statements essentially based on the report by HSL.….the Council has sought clarification on their position from the HSE, as it is our belief that the scientific analysis, as well as the visual evidence of extensive asbestos debris at the site does not support their conclusions that the site is 'essentially uncontaminated'.... Given all of the above officers have concluded that a return to the Cwmcarn High School site cannot be safe for pupils or staff without the abatement and remediation work being carried out.”

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    On 18th March a report was published by Ensafe following their recent asbestos survey at Cwmcarn High School. The report totally vindicates the Council’s decision to close the school. The presence of extensive asbestos contamination in the ceiling voids was confirmed, as was contamination of the warm air cabinet heaters. £1.5 million is the estimate for asbestos remedial works mainly in “A block”, which includes the removal of the heaters.

    The Ensafe survey confirms the October Santia report that identified widespread contamination of the ceiling voids and unsealed damaged AIB in warm air heaters that led to the closure of the school. HSL air sampling carried out in November confirmed that the warm air heaters were emitting amosite fibres up to 4,300 fibres per cubic metre of air following disturbance tests.

    HSE were wrong when they stated that the school is “essentially uncontaminated.” David Ashton, a senior HSE Director, gave evidence to the Education Select Committee on 13th March that  “Our advice to the local authority that it is perfectly safe to reopen the school because the actual levels, by the more sophisticated method, were at the limits of measurable quantification by a more sophisticated technique.” His statement runs contrary to the HSL air sampling, the 2009 asbestos survey, the October 2012 Santia report, the Council’s decision to close the school and the recent survey and report from Ensafe.

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    Newsletter (17 March). Summarises the Parliamentary Select Commmittee evidence on asbestos in schools of 13 March. It includes:

    • Evidence of asbestos exposure in schools
    • Former pupils dying from asbestos exposure at school
    • Minister and HSE claim that policies working
    • Exclusion of asbestos from audit of school buildings and Minister's "flawed" reply
    • Best practice
    • Proactive inspections in schools reduced
    • Air sampling advocated by scientist
    • Lack of training and asbestos awareness in academies
    • Asbestos risk insurance is generally not available for pupils. Reason not addressed by Minister
    • HSE claim it is safer for asbestos to remain for the remaining life of school buildings.
    • European Parliament Resolution on the same day of the Committee Meeting supports AiS and JUAC recommendations

    Parliament: Official video of the Education Select Committee taking evidence on Asbestos in Schools (Asbestos session starts 40.05 minutes after the start of the Parliament Channel video. Parliament Channel Archive 13 March 9.31am to 11.36am). The written evidence submitted to the committee by each witness is at this link. The final parliamentary transcript of the oral evidence is at this link.

    Witnesses are:

    1. Michael Lees, Asbestos in Schools Group, Julie Winn, Chair, Joint Union Asbestos Committee, Professor Julian Peto, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Roger Leighton, Headteacher, The Sydney Russell School, Dagenham
    2. David Laws MP, Minister of State for Schools, and David Ashton, Director of Field Operations Directorate, Health and Safety Executive

    European parliament: On 14th March the European Parliament by a large majority (558 votes in favour - 51 against) voted for recommendations substantially supportive of the evidence and recommendations made to the Education Select Committee by AiS and JUAC. The full European Parliament text is at this link. Selected points follow:

    • Calls on the EU to devise models for monitoring asbestos fibres in the air in the workplace ......
    • Urges the EU to develop models for monitoring existing asbestos in private and public buildings ..........
    • Urges the EU to conduct an impact assessment and cost benefit analysis of the possibility of establishing action plans for the safe removal of asbestos from public buildings and buildings providing services which require regular public access by 2028..... competent government ministers should coordinate the action ...
    • Urges the Commission to recommend the Member States develop public asbestos registers ....
    • Urges the Commission, in cooperation with the Member States, to ensure the effective and unhindered implementation of European asbestos legislation and to step up official inspections ....

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    Newsletter. 9 Mar 2013

    1. Education Select Committee Hearing Asbestos in Schools - 13 March
    2. Council in Court for ignoring Asbestos Threat in School
    3. Cwmcarn School remains closed after Asbestos Contamination Identified
    4. Warm Air Cabinet Heaters in Classrooms can Potentially Release asbestos fibres - Warnings dating to 1982 ignored
    5. Latest Statistics of Teachers and Support Staff deaths from Mesothelioma are of concern.

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    MPs to hear evidence on asbestos in schools ... Schools minister David Laws and the HSE’s director of Field Operations Directorate, David Ashton, will be among the witnesses giving evidence to a group of MPs on issues relating to asbestos in schools in England. ... The Education Select Committee will be holding a one-off oral evidence session on 13 March. The first panel of witnesses – including Michael Lees, from the Asbestos in Schools Group; Julian Peto, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and Julie Winn, chair of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee – will give the MPs the opportunity to question interest groups, experts in the field and individuals with direct experience..... This will be followed by evidence from the schools minister and the HSE on relevant government policies.... The GMB union, which represents school support workers, has fed in evidence as part of the JUAC submission. The Department for Education (DfE) is currently carrying out an audit on the condition of schools in a bid to establish refurbishment priorities, but GMB is concerned that asbestos is specifically excluded from the audit.

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    Cwmran School. The parents at Cwmcarn are rightly concerned about conflicting messages over the risks posed by asbestos at their children’s school. They are very supportive of the school and are also understandably concerned about its future.  

    “A” block contains significant amounts of asbestos insulating board (AIB) in places vulnerable to damage by the occupants. There is widespread AIB debris in the ceiling void and because of leaks in the roof a number of ceiling tiles have fallen into the rooms. Although the HSL tests did not find raised fibre levels in the area of a particular fallen tile, that would appear to be fortuitous as there is always the potential that asbestos contamination could enter the rooms from the contaminated ceiling voids.  

    Some of the warm air cabinet heaters contain AIB debris, unsealed and damaged AIB panels. HSL tests have confirmed that amosite fibres are released from the heaters. In 1982 warnings were first issued about this form of heaters and the potential for amosite fibre release, but that guidance had not been followed. It is therefore possible that the heaters had been emitting asbestos fibres into the rooms since the school was built in the 1950s.

    There remains the potential for any occupants of “A” block to be exposed to asbestos fibres. Although there is a debate over the extent of the risks, there is general agreement that it was the correct decision to close the school. The decision now about what to do with “A” block must be primarily based on what is safe for the occupants. Children are involved, and they have spent, and will spend long periods of time in this building. If there remains a difference in opinion about the risks then the Precautionary Principle must be followed as the staff and children’s safety has to be paramount, so that the measures taken must ensure that there is no further potential for asbestos fibre release.  

     http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/gwentnews/10242782._/

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    Santia responds to HSL asbestos report: 8th February 2013 'Both the Council and Santia ( asbestos consultants) continue to believe that the safety of the children attending Cwmcarn school and those who work there cannot be guaranteed with the foreseeable risks in relation to asbestos still in existence. Santia also believes that the report allegedly attributable to the HSE appearing on the BBC website on 5 February 2013 is misleading in terms of its reference to CHS as “an essentially uncontaminated school after new tests" ..........'

    '.... the HSL report takes a very narrow approach and only addresses one aspect of the situation which is airborne fibre levels. Specifically it does not address the issues of whether the school is safe to reopen, the safety of the school environment as a place to study and work, the history of asbestos mismanagement at the school and past involvement of the Health and Safety Executive at the school. The HSL report fundamentally does not address the duty holder’s statutory responsibilities to manage asbestos safely and keep risks associated with asbestos to an absolute minimum. A spokesperson for Santia said “We would have expected an objective report to address these issues and be able to comment upon them. We invite the HSE to disclose the letter of instruction to HSL which should confirm the extent of HSL’s brief from the HSE on these matters”

    Santia says that the investigations undertaken by HSL were in a school which had been unoccupied for some time and while some attempts were made by one person to simulate disturbance this cannot be regarded as being representative of the disturbance which would be caused by up to 900 pupils and 100 staff all moving about in the building at lesson change times. The source of the asbestos contamination in the school still remains in place consisting of substantially damaged asbestos insulating boards (AIBs) in the ceiling voids, (see picture below) damaged AIB in the room heaters (HSL sampling confirmed that amosite fibres were being released from the heaters) and repeated damage of AIB window panels within classrooms......... Evidence can be provided by Santia of guidance issued by the HSE to local authorities as long as ago as 1981 warning of the dangers of using warm air cabinet heating containing unsealed AIB panels, AIB debris and asbestos fibres. The problems with the leaking roof at the school have not been resolved. The possibility still exists that further water leaks and subsequent ceiling collapses would give rise to asbestos exposure in the occupied areas of the building........ '

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    Urgent Warning "warm air cabinet heaters in schools" release amosite. An HSL report has just been published (4th February 2013) on air sampling tests at Cwmcarn High School. The tests confirm that significant levels of amosite fibres can be released from “warm air cabinet heaters.”  In October an asbestos consultant identified that the heaters contained damaged and unsealed asbestos insulating boards (AIB), asbestos fibres and AIB debris. Tests showed that fibres were being released and amosite fibres were found in the classrooms. The consultants warned the authorities who immediately closed the school.

    On 3rd December AiS had asked DfE to issue an urgent warning to all schools about the dangers of asbestos fibre release from this form of heating.  The Minister stated that he would consider the request once he had received the results of the HSE investigation. That investigation has now confirmed the release of asbestos fibres from the heaters. AiS has therefore renewed their request that DfE issues an urgent warning to all schools about the dangers inherent in these heaters

    Follow these links to the warnings that were first given about this type of heating more than thirty years ago. HM Chief Inspector of Factories (in1981), HSE (in 1982).

    Unjustified Statements by school and HSE - Cwmcarn School Yesterday afternoon (4th February) Caerphilly council published an HSL report on their investigation into asbestos fibre levels at Cwmcarn School. The report is most controversial. Because of it the school and HSE have issued statements that cannot be justified:

    • The school has stated : “All of the samples taken by HSL were below the "limit of quantification", in other words they were so small that they would be below the target sensitivity of 0.0001 fibres/ml. To place this in context such levels would be similar to that found in background levels in the atmosphere. “
    • That is incorrect as the air sampling carried out by HSL confirmed that the warm air cabinet heaters were emitting significant levels of amosite fibres into the classrooms.
    • This form of heating was one of the most common forms of heating in schools and is still in use.
    • In December AiS and JUAC asked DfE to issue an urgent warning to all schools about the dangers inherent in these heaters. DfE has not so far issued the warning.
    • This morning (5th February) BBC reported that “ HSE believes it is an essentially uncontaminated school," They cannot justify that. The ceiling voids are known to be contaminated and the heaters have been shown to release amosite fibres.
    • The 2009 survey identified widespread AIB debris in the ceiling void as the attached photo graphically shows.  It is believed that most of the debris in the ceiling void remains in place. HSE are irresponsible to make the statement they have.

     

     

    The National Assembly of Wales Cross Party Group on asbestos is meeting this afternoon (5th February) and Cwmcarn will be discussed.

    HSL report
    Statement from school on Caerphilly council web-site
    Caerphilly Council  press release

    Articles and interviews:
    The Right to Know Wales has given, and is giving interviews on BBC Wales.
    Daily Post
    BBC Wales 5 Feb
    BBC Wales 4 Feb

    ------------------------------------------------

    Teachers’ mesothelioma deaths: Lord Dafydd Wigley tabled a Parliamentary question on teachers’ deaths. 16 school teachers died of mesothelioma in 2011.

    Misplaced certainty over absence of harm Despite considerable evidence to the contrary (including these deaths) the HSE has advised DfE that the risks from asbestos in schools are very low. The European Environmental Agency has just published a report that highlights growing instances of misplaced certainty about the absence of harm and advocates a precautionary principle. It says:

    “The scientific elites have also been slowly losing public support. This is in part because of the growing number of instances of misplaced certainty about the absence of harm, which has delayed preventive actions to reduce risks to human health, despite evidence to the contrary.” - (Late lessons from early warnings, science .... Volume 2 page 6)

    . The European paper outlines the approach that should be adopted in these circumstances:

    "The precautionary principle applies where scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain and preliminary scientific evaluation indicates that there are reasonable grounds for concern that the potentially dangerous effects on the environment, human, animal or plant health may be inconsistent with the high level of protection chosen by the EU....
    (Volume 1)

    There is also guidance from the Commission on the precautionary principle

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    Powys County Council has been reported to the Information Commissioner for refusing to release details of schools in its area where asbestos is present – unlike all other Welsh local authorities. (County Times 4 Feb 2013). ....Simon Thomas, Mid and West Wales Assembly Member and Plaid’s Shadow Minister for Education, said: “I’m very disappointed at the continued stance taken by Powys County Council... " Mr Thomas has supported the ‘Right to Know: Asbestos in Schools Wales’ campaign to ensure a voluntary online schools asbestos database for Wales..... Kirsty Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Brecon and Radnorshire said ..."Neighbouring councils in Ceredigion and Monmouthshire do not consider that the information would cause public alarm in their areas, so what is different about Powys? I am left wondering if the situation is so bad in Powys that they simply don't want to tell us. It is essential that we know which schools contain asbestos so that we can assess how many are unsafe. That is the only way that parents, staff and pupils can be confident that the council is taking action in the schools that need it the most."

    ____________________________________

    We are saddened to hear of the death of David MacDonald, a 57 year old headteacher. At his inquest evidence was given that he had been regularly exposed to asbestos at schools he had taught in. The coroner recorded a verdict of death from industrial disease. (Cotswold News 18 January 2013)

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    On 19 Dec 2012 the Schools Minister, David Laws MP, answered a parliamentary question. The response is useful as AiS will be meeting the Minister next week and he has clearly laid out his position on certain critical issues.

    Comments: An analysis of his statement and concerns raised by it are at this link

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    On 5th December, Leighton Andrews, the Education Minister in the Welsh Government, answered a series of questions about asbestos in schools. (pages 6, 15 and 16)

    Comment The Welsh Government’s stance on asbestos in schools is the same as in England. They put the responsibility for ensuring the safety of staff and pupils from asbestos on the local authorities and abdicate their own responsibilities. However they have then failed to provide the resources and finances so that asbestos can be safely managed, and they have failed to provide an adequate system of inspection to determine whether schools are achieving satisfactory standards. .. The situation is compounded as, over the course of many years, successive Governments have failed to provide sufficient resources to maintain their school stock. This has meant that as the fabric of the buildings have deteriorated then so has the asbestos.

    The Minister states “It is important that we do not allow people to become alarmist about the issue of asbestos in schools... if properly managed, this is not a danger that people should have concerns about.” Those are empty words, for it is only in the last month that by default the Minister discovered that a number of local authorities were not properly managing their asbestos. If he had been doing his job then he, and others, should have had serious concerns about the failure of Cwmcarn, and other schools, to safely manage their asbestos a very long time ago.

    A detailed comment on the answers is at this link

    ---------------------------------------

    BBC Radio Good Evening Wales (27 Nov) has an interesting interview exploring parents right to know about asbestos in their schools following the Cwmran incident. The point is made that empowerment of parents enables and assists effective monitoring of asbestos management standards in schools.

    ------------------------------------------

    Welsh Government Parliamentary debate (Full debate on BBC at the link) Yesterday (27 Nov) there was a debate in the Welsh Government on asbestos in schools that raised many issues of concern... . The Education Minister said “As a consequence, and based upon, the responses received I do not feel sufficiently assured at this stage that local authorities are discharging their statutory duties to manage asbestos and have sufficient plans in place,”

    The Minister has also produced a written statement. Comment The statement makes a flawed comparison. Teachers are not working on asbestos and should not be compared to those who do. In addition teachers’ exposure to asbestos and their deaths should not be acceptable because others are also dying from asbestos. If teachers are being exposed to asbestos then, unlike other professions, so are the children in their care. Rather than use the deaths of construction workers and others to justify inaction on teachers’ deaths the Minister should urgently examine the implications for children.

    -------------------------------------------

    The Welsh education minister has raised questions over whether local councils are dealing with asbestos properly in the wake of the Cwmcarn High School crisis.

    -----------------------------------------

    Asbestos reply angers minister Powys County Council has been accused of hiding information after it refused to give out details of the level of asbestos there is in its schools..Brecon and Radnorshire Assembly Member Kirsty Williams, accused the council of concealing the information and she questioned the council’s reason why it chose not to give out the information... . The AM submitted formal requests to each local council in Wales to find out which Welsh schools contained asbestos after unexpectedly high levels of the material was found in a school in Gwent. Unlike all the other councils, Powys refused to release the information claiming it would alarm the public.“I do not wish to cause undue alarm, but Powys Council seems to be trying to hide information from parents and staff about how many children could be exposed to asbestos.”

    High School closure and report on asbestos

    A school that shut suddenly last month after workmen spotted asbestos had airborne fibres ten times over accepted levels, a report has found. The 900-pupil Cwmcarn High School closed after a structural report identified asbestos in the main block. The Welsh government ordered all schools to report on asbestos levels.

    The survey into Cwmcarn revealed it "poses potential serious risk to health" and should be demolished, as recommended by a previous inspection.

    The report by Santia Asbestos Management Limited said asbestos in the roof void may have been blown around the building by the heating system... Ceiling tiles being disturbed by draughts, repairs to the electrical circuit and even pupils scraping chairs and tables in classrooms may have caused damage to asbestos boards... "We are of the opinion that it is not feasible to continue operating the school in the current condition based on the risks imposed on occupants"

    The full report is at this link on Caerphilly Council web site.

    Comment: The full report shows that there is extensive asbestos insulating board (AIB) debris in the ceiling voids, AIB walls are damaged, other AIB is unsealed and there are AIB panels in heater cabinets in two classrooms. Air sampling gave levels of 0.003 f/ml to 0.007 f/ml. Swab tests in four classrooms and the stairwell found asbestos fibres in the dust.  The samplers on the contractors carrying out an environmental clean recorded levels of 0.03, 0.06 and 0.07 f/ml. 

    Heating cabinets similar to the ones at Cwmcarn were common in schools and also flats and, as can be seen, are still in use. The problem of asbestos fibre release from this form of heating has been known about since 1981. . In 1982 HSE issued a warning that amosite fibres can emitted into the classrooms from the heaters.  Air sampling carried out in “rooms served with by warm-air heaters whose ducts were lined with Asbestolux” found a level of 0.025 f/ml. In other tests levels up to 0.06f/ml were measured.

     It must therefore be questioned why some thirty years later heaters at Cwmcarn were still in place and releasing asbestos fibres into the classroom... It is disgraceful that in 2011 schools are still heated with the system of heating.

    A one page brief and picture of the heater, its history and risks, with the references used for the sampling figures above are at this link.

    --------------------------------------------------------------

    Asbestos in Schools Wales is part of the Asbestos in Schools Group. AiS Wales has launched a parents right to know campaign:

    Right to Know: Asbestos in Schools, Wales campaign, is calling for the creation of a central accessible register or database of asbestos in schools in Wales. The purpose of the register or database, is to provide easily accessible information as to the presence of asbestos in individual schools, for those working in schools together with parents and guardians.

    AiS Wales ask for your support by signing the Petition at this link
    "We call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to put measures in place to ensure that parents and guardians of children across Wales can easily access information about the presence and management of asbestos in all school buildings. Given the health risks associated with the presence of asbestos in public buildings, we believe parents and guardians across Wales have:

    "The right to know if asbestos is located in their school
    The right to know whether, where asbestos is present, it is being managed in line with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
    The right to access that information easily online"

    -------------------------------------------

    A detailed report on the Brussels conference “Europe’s Asbestos Catastrophe” includes links to PowerPoint presentations, online resources and a video clip of the European Parliamentary Asbestos Hearings on 18th September. The report gives a comparison of the scale of the asbestos problem in EU member states and shows the huge difference between governments on the measures they are taking to combat it.

    ---------------------------------------------

    The Right to Know: Asbestos in Schools Wales campaign was launched after the recent alert at Cwmcarn High School. The campaign was launched by Cardiff-based law firm New Law with the support of a number of cancer charities and Assembly Member Nick Ramsay is supporting it. He will chair a new crossparty group which will examine the feasibility of establishing a central schools asbestos database. Parents would be able to access it online, check whether asbestos is present in any school and whether a management plan is in place where it is present.

    -------------------------------------------

    A massive asbestos decontamination project will have to take place at Catherine Junior School, in Belgrave, Leicester, following a fire on Tuesday 30 Oct... Schoolbags, coats, PE kits and other items left behind during the evacuation by the 380 children will have to be destroyed because of the asbestos contamination. Workmen were repairing the roof of the gymnasium using a heat gun to melt pitch to seal the roof...

    Comment: The asbestos contamination was mainly caused by the fire and the efforts of the fire brigade to extinguish it. However the work on the roof in its own right could also have released asbestos fibres. Any maintenance work that could disturb asbestos should not be carried out when a school is occupied. But work did take place, even though the school is known to contain significant amounts of asbestos. See this link for a current court case and similar incidents

    The school Is a class Mark 4b constructed in 1970. The design of this, and other system built schools, has been criticised by fire authorities as unsafe following previous incidents in similar buildings. The history, dangers and earlier major incidents are at this link.

    -----------------------------------------------

    BBC reports that growing concern about asbestos levels in schools has led to calls for routine testing for airborne fibres in classrooms in Wales....A BBC Wales investigation has found there is no acceptable safe limit for exposure to asbestos dust in schools..... .The HSE and Public Health Wales told the programme that while there were occupational limits for exposure to workers, there were no accepted safe levels in schools.... BBC One Wales: "Inside School Walls, Week In Week Out" 22:35, Tuesday 30 Oct

    -----------------------------------------------

    During the last two weeks the Education Minister in Wales has collated information on asbestos in schools and Assembly Members have called for a national audit. In England the Minister says an audit is unnecessary.

    The responses demonstrate that a review of policy is urgently required.  

    A review of the UK Government exclusion of asbestos from the audit of school buildings is at this link.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    The right to know Asbestos in Schools Wales Campaign A new campaign is being launched to give parents in Wales the right to know in which school buildings asbestos is present. The Right to Know: Asbestos in Schools Wales campaign has been launched in the week Cwmcarn High School, in Caerphilly, closed, amidst claims that up to 900 children could have been exposed to airborne asbestos.. (see below). ..The campaign is being backed by Nick Ramsay, Assembly Member for Monmouth and Shadow Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science. He will be chairing a Cross Party Group on asbestos which will examine the feasibility of establishing a central schools asbestos database.In the National Assembly he said "It is very important that we have an update from your Government as soon as possible on how policy is being developed to deal with this unfolding problem of asbestos in our school stock. There are growing concerns among parents. Those fears need to be allayed as soon as possible."

    Last Friday Caerphilly Council published Q&As on Cwmcarn School. At times the answers are misleading or contrary to current accepted expert opinion. Comments on their answers are attached. The original Questions and Answers are at this link

    Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, has called on the Welsh Government to conduct a national audit of asbestos in schools. She said: "I do not want to cause undue alarm, however when a school of 900 pupils has had to close because asbestos was found in airborne particles, I think that people across Wales have a right to know if asbestos is a danger in their local school. Asbestos is a hidden killer and I am very concerned that pupils, staff and teachers at our schools could be unknowingly exposed to asbestos. Many of our schools that were built between 1940s and 1980s used asbestos during construction for its fire-retardant and insulating properties and the mere act of sticking a drawing pin into a wall could disturb the fibrous crystals. The prolonged inhalation of these fibres can cause serious illnesses including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis

    National Assembly for Wales (e petition): "We call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to put measures in place to ensure that parents and guardians of children across Wales can easily access information about the presence and management of asbestos in all school buildings. Given the health risks associated with the presence of asbestos in public buildings, we believe parents and guardians across Wales have the right:

    • to know if asbestos is located in their school
    • to know whether, where asbestos is present, it is being managed in line with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
    • to access that information easily online"

    Comment: Follow the link to the National Assembly for Wales web site to see and sign the petition

    Cwmran School, Wales - timetable and comments on information provided

    Call from six main teaching unions for national audit of the asbestos in our schools following Cwmran school, Wales, closure

    UCATT say that ... the council has issued “highly misleading information about asbestos safety” and that this advice has been repeated in the media. Not only is it endangering everyone attending the school but anyone else reading the advice would be given the totally wrong information about the safety of asbestos

    The Background Story of the closure

    Because of its asbestos problems Cwmcarn School will close completely from 5th November and all the pupils will be sent to another school. The move will cost £1.4million. Caerphilly Special Council report at the link

    Oc t23 9.38PM Plans to move all 900 pupils from a high school have been approved after asbestos was discovered by workmen. The decision was taken at a special meeting of Caerphilly councillors a week after problems came to light at Cwmcarn High School. The children will be educated at Coleg Gwent's campus in Ebbw Vale as a temporary measure from Monday, 5 November.

    Oct 19 0849 AM A specialist contractor has advised Caerphilly council to consider demolishing a school closed last week because of asbestos,...Cwmcarn High School shut last Friday after workmen spotted the potentially hazardous material. (BBC report)

    Oct 16, 8.48PM All schools in Wales must deliver reports on their asbestos levels by next week, Education Minister Leighton Andrews has announced.

    October 16, 1:17 PM Cwmcarn High School - asbestos found in airborne particles. Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, is calling on the Welsh Government to conduct a national audit of asbestos in schools following the closure of a school in Caerphilly. Cwmcarn High School, which has more than 900 pupils, shut late last Friday after a structural report identified asbestos. Many school buildings in Wales were built between the 1940s and 1980s, when asbestos was used extensively.

    -------------------------------------------

    2 Oct 2012 We are sorry to report another teacher's death from mesothelioma. Teacher died after exposure to asbestos at primary school. Kenneth Wright, 76, of Birchfield Road, Nordelph, died in Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital on August 8. An inquest held at the Lynn county court yesterday heard that Mr Wright, who was born in West Ham, had been working in a primary school when he had been exposed to asbestos. The cause of death was given as malignant mesothelioma. Coroner William Armstrong returned a verdict of death from an industrial disease.

    Comment: Because Mr Wright was older than 74 when he died his death will not be recorded in the occupational statistics . This adds to the evidence that considerably more school teachers die of mesothelioma than are recorded in the occupational statistics. For further comment and an analysis of teachers, support staff and pupils’ mesothelioma deaths please follow the link (from page 34): Information on asbestos exposure in schools

    -----------------------------------------

    In October 2011 AiS discovered that in general academies and free schools are unable to obtain commercial public liability insurance cover for asbestos exposure risks. Therefore at the DfE Asbestos Steering Group meeting of 8th February 2012 they asked how academies and free schools could meet any future asbestos related claims from former pupils or non-employees. However DfE were unable to give satisfactory answers to their questions

    On 6th September DfE contacted AiS and asked “Could you let me know what your questions and concerns are over those we discussed at the last meeting? If they are within the remit of the steering group, I can then identify the most appropriate person/s to attend.”

    _________________________

    Asbestos Issues at Heart of European Debate (Sept 2012) This week the humanitarian and environmental disaster caused by Europe's use of asbestos took center-stage at a series of meetings attended by 150 delegates in Brussels...... , a conference entitled “Europe's Asbestos Catastrophe: Supporting Victims, Preventing Future Tragedy” was held ...... September 18th culminated with an asbestos hearing at the European Parliament. From 5-6:30 p.m., the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs listened to comments regarding the EU Asbestos Challenge made by Members of the European Parliament Stephen Hughes and Alejandro Cercas and heard evidence by expert witness:... The asbestos hearing can be viewed online with interpretation in 20 languages on the European Parliament website. The asbestos segment of the Committee's meeting on September 18th began at 17:10 with a statement by MEP Stephen Hughes; the IBAS evidence began at approximately 18:26.

    --------------------------------------------

    We are saddened to hear of the death of Joyce Woodward a school caterer from mesothelioma. Anne Hind, Blackpool Coroner, recorded a verdict of industrial disease. She said: “This is the frightening thing about this tumour – the exposure can be so long in the past. If the World Health Protection Agency is to be believed, we are going to have a huge explosion of deaths of this kind over the next decade. We have had a lot more cases in the last few years than we have in the last 20.”

    ------------------------------------------

    The Joint Union Asbestos Committee have commented on the contrast between the UK government's approach to asbestos in schools and that of Australia (see below). In particular they point out that the UKs incidence of mesothelioma is significantly greater than that of Australia, but whilst Australia are prioritising schools the UK government are specifically excluding asbestos from an audit of the condition of school buildings and have also made the decision that the HSE will no longer proactively inspect UK schools. The Australian Minister said the government would work to “ultimately remove asbestos from the Australian built environment...... ”.(In contrast to UK who plan to keep it) and he agreed in principle that removal of asbestos from schools will be prioritised, adding “Obviously, exposure to children is particularly repugnant..."

    4 Sept 2012 The Australian government has stated it will  ''ultimately remove asbestos from the Australian built environment'' with priority to schools. this was based on a two year asbestos review. It makes various recommendations, amongst which are:

    • To deal effectively with all of the complex asbestos management issues in Australia, it is essential to have a rigorous, comprehensive, reliable, up to-date and accessible database of asbestos locations.
    • That the Australian Government lead and advocate for all jurisdictions to agree to the development of a National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management in Australia.
    • That the National Strategic Plan provide for investigation of the prioritised removal of asbestos containing materials from government and commercial buildings by 2030.

    Australian Ministerial statement 16th August 2012: “This report demonstrates how critical and urgent the issue is. It is an issue for all levels of government. It is an issue that is affecting people at work, in schools, in hospitals and at home. I am going to consult with all jurisdictions and all of the groups that have campaigned for action on asbestos to develop a quick response to the review. This is a once in a generation report. And I expect that the change that comes from our response to it will be substantial.”

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    House of Commons Asbestos removal has been taking place in the Houses of Parliament over the summer recess as part of a three year £1million contract

    ---------------------------------------------

    In the consultation for the 2002 Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations the Department of Education argued strongly and successfully against asbestos surveys being made compulsory in schools.

    --------------------------------------------

    The Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology have produced a “Position statement on asbestos”. One of the conclusions (Page 3, 20): “Urges all countries that have used asbestos to inform their citizens and their healthcare professionals of the hazards of asbestos and to implement safety measures to monitor the health of exposed citizens, To facilitate this an inventory of asbestos already in place is needed, particularly in schools and places where children are present”.

    Comment: This authoritative international body considers it essential to have an inventory of asbestos in schools and yet the DfE have specifically excluded asbestos from an audit of the condition of school buildings. If asbestos is not included the scale of the problem in schools cannot be determined and the limited resources cannot be targetted at those schools where staff and pupils are most at risk.   The DfE decision therefore appears dangerously irresponsible. It also appears illogical as any financial forecasts based on an audit of the condition of schools will be meaningless.

    (The Society of Epidemiology is an international organisation and the International Epidemiological Association (IEA) has signed in support of the paper; UK epidemiologists are on the IEA Board).

    --------------------------------------------------

    Derby's coroner warns: Deadly illnesses caused by asbestos exposure could rise even more than expected as "hidden victims" emerge...... There are fears that many teachers, pupils, wives of men in manufacturing jobs and nurses could develop diseases caused by the dust.....But coroner Dr Robert Hunter said the illnesses are now starting to appear in other groups of people, and that many may have been exposed and not yet know it.... Dr Hunter said the issue was a frightening unknown. He said: "I don't think that, 15 or 20 years ago, anyone was predicting asbestos-related deaths among people such as schoolteachers or women who washed their husbands' overalls, but those cases are now evident..... "Recently, we've had a flurry of inquests into the deaths of women who washed overalls covered in asbestos dust so there could be other hidden victims we don't yet know about who could come to light."... The number of asbestos-related deaths dealt with at inquest by Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner's Court rose to 48 in 2011, compared to 34 in 2005.

    Dr Hunter fears one group of people who may start to develop asbestos-related illnesses are those who went to school decades ago.

    -------------------------

    The Gazette Hertfordshire: 8 Jul 2012 ",,, Irene Dowling, of The Mallards, Hemel Hempstead, died on May 22 this year after developing mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos. The 64-year-old, born in Birmingham, was a supply teacher for a number of years and moved to Hemel Hempstead in 1975, before working at Watford Borough Council in the housing department, and at Luton Borough Council..."

    ---------------------

    The annual Parliamentary asbestos seminar was held on 27th June....IBAS Summary Extract from summary: "The final presentation was by Professor Alex Burdorf, an epidemiologist from the Netherlands whose work has been pivotal in getting his government to recognize the dangers posed by low level exposures to asbestos. Burdorf explained that as a result of research he and his colleagues had conducted, the risk from asbestos products contained in Dutch schools has been deemed unacceptable. Asbestos removal work has consequently been carried out in those facilitates classed as high priority with phased removal work planned for other schools. The political will to decontaminate the schools in the Netherlands is in sharp contrast to the coalition government's reluctance to tackle the national scandal in our own schools".

    ---------------------------------------------

    Millions of school children are uninsurable against illness from exposure to asbestos at school. This brings into stark reality the risks to children from asbestos in the nation’s schools.  

    The Department for Education (DfE) has been asked how any future claims will be met from those affected, and a series of parliamentary questions have also been tabled to try to establish the extent of the problem.

    A briefing with references and sources is at this link

    ( Some academies have been told that they have full public liability insurance to cover pupils for asbestos exposure risks. However an expert has confirmed that in general the wording in policies fails to give that cover.)

    ---------------------------------------

    A series of Parliamentary questions have been asked to clarify the position on whether or not pupils and non-employees are covered by asbestos exposure risk insurance in Academies. A previous Parliamentary answer had confirmed that in general they are not. It stated “...There is a general asbestos exclusion for public liability insurance.”

    That posed the question how any future claim would be met if a former pupil develops mesothelioma. The Minister has answered the first question and the reply appears flawed. For the question, answer and an explanation of the flaws click here.

    ----------------------------------------------

    We are saddened to hear of the death of a school caretaker from mesothelioma. The father of two from the Blackpool area died in March 2012. He was exposed to asbestos whilst working for Lancashire County Council as a caretaker at two primary schools during the 1980s.

    More detais from his Union here

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    20 May 2012: “Nusrat Faizullah, chief executive of the British Council for School Environments, said many schools were in a worse state of repair than 10 years ago. "Some are in a terrible – and dangerous – condition."

    Comment 1: If school buildings are in poor condition then it is inevitable that asbestos in their structure will also be.

    In 2011 the Schools Capital Review examined the school estate in England and concluded that “Significant parts of the school estate were and are in an unacceptable state.” A 2010 analysis carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA) and Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) showed that “£15 billion capital investment is the absolute minimum councils need between now and 2015 to ensure every child can be taught in a classroom which is safe and structurally sound. Nearly £5 billion is considered essential for the next financial year, 2011-12.” In March 2011 a Financial Times report stated “The dire condition of large parts of the £110bn school estate has become a source of panic, according to officials at the Department for Education... The backlog of repairs needed by English schools would require £8.5bn to fix.”

    Comment 2: Making asbestos safe is a major part of this expenditure but the Government have specifically excluded asbestos from the audit of school buildings. Asbestos must be included in the audit so that those schools with the most dangerous materials can be identified and the limited funds targeted to make them safe.

    Further information on the condition of schools New analysis from the Local Government Association (LGA) shows hundreds of schools, categorised as being some of the most run-down in the country, could miss out on Government funding earmarked to fix them... Schools minister Nick Gibb was horrified to learn children at one of the UK's most dilapidated schools are forced to shelter under umbrellas during lessons due to a lack of funding. Gibb said children had been "failed" and if he was a parent at the school he would be "very cross".. “There's no question the school is in a very bad condition but the decision about how we allocate taxpayers' money to the Priority Schools Building Programme is taken in a very scientific and objective way based on an assessment of all the schools that have applied."...... 'The worst conditions I've ever seen': Minister blasts dilapidated primary school ...Crumbling walls, moldy carpets, cracked windows and collapsing roofs... ... but nothing has been done at Coventry school a year after plight highlighted

    In July 2011, Michael Gove announced the Priority School Building Programme, £2bn of private finance to rebuild the most dilapidated schools. Applications had to be in by mid-October 2011 and schools were told they would hear in December. It was to be a five-year programme. The scheme has been oversubscribed, and no decision has been announced, although one is now expected by the end of May 2012.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    An article in the Sunday Independent states “Thousands of families whose relatives were killed by asbestos cancers will win a landmark compensation victory this week, sources have told The Independent on Sunday. The Supreme Court will rule on Wednesday that insurers who offered cover at the time victims inhaled the deadly fibres will have to pay compensation.” Although the Supreme Court Judgement is not due until Wednesday, the Independent seem very sure of their facts. If they are correct then this is very good news indeed for people with mesothelioma and their families who intend taking civil action against those who exposed them to asbestos.

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    A recent study by French researchers concludes persons exposed to asbestos at a young age are more likely to develop Mesothelioma than those exposed to asbestos at an older age. (Subscription site - European Respiratory Journal)

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    The implementation of HSE’s cost recovery for enforcement action will no longer come into force in April but has now been delayed until October at the earliest. This will inevitably have implications for the reinstatement of the Hidden Killer campaign.

    -------------------------------------------

    We are sad to report that another school teacher has died of mesothelioma. At her inquest in December the coroner gave a verdict of “Death from Industrial Disease.” The Coroners Court is a court of law and the verdict was based on the evidence.

    Comment 140 school teachers have died of mesothelioma in the last ten years. There is evidence of widespread asbestos exposure of teachers, support staff and children in schools and their ever increasing death toll. Despite this, and the verdict of the Coroner, Health and Safety Inspectors refuse to carry out an investigation of the evidence and refuse to acknowledge the verdict of "industrial disease." They therefore fail to learn the lessons from this and many other identical verdicts. The result is that negligence and dangerous practice are not identified or corrected.

    If this teacher had been killed by the school bus the police would have investigated the accident and, if negligence was found, they would have initiated a criminal prosecution. Lessons are then learned. In contrast when a person is killed by asbestos Health and Safety Inspectors, who are responsible for investigating workplace deaths, refuse to do so.

    An investigation of each death and the collation of the information would enable lessons to be learned and measures implemented to prevent future deaths. Such investigation and action is, of course, standard practice in other organisations following the death of an employee where a Coroner’s verdict implicates the organisation in the death.

    The Health and Safety Inspector’s excuse for refusing to investigate the deaths of people who have worked in schools containing asbestos is that the exposure might have been caused by exposure “away from school altogether.” This appears to be a direct challenge to the legal verdict of the coroner.

    Health and Safety Inspector’s refusal to investigate or acknowledge deaths in schools from asbestos means that they are failing to learn lessons which would protect every member of staff and child who works, or is taught, in schools containing asbestos.

    They have also failed the family of this teacher.

    ------------------------------------------

    The HSE guidance that refers to the Action Level as a threshold for an exposure that would “usually have been insufficient to cause a significant long term risk to health” has been withdrawn. The threshold was dangerously high and was contrary to expert medical and legal opinion. AiS argued successfully for this flawed guidance to be withdrawn.

    The new guidance gives advice on what to do following an inadvertent exposure to asbestos and also when to make a RIDDOR report. The new guidance no longer gives an artificially high threshold. It is at:

    http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/faq.htm

    What are the health risks from asbestos?
    I may have been inadvertently exposed to asbestos. What should I do?
    When does inadvertent exposure to asbestos constitute a reportable incident under RIDDOR?

    LAC5/19 was withdrawn in December 2011 and OC 265/48 was withdrawn in February 2012.

    _____________________________________

    Executives of the Eternit asbestos company have been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in jail. Stephan Schmidheiny and Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne have been “convicted of involuntary manslaughter" in Turin on Monday 12 Feb, the two men were each sentenced to serve 16 years in prison. In addition, they will have to pay millions of euros in punitive damages. According to the court, more than 3,000 people died from the consequences of asbestos dust in those factories. Schmidheiny and Cartier were accused of knowing about the dangers of asbestos but not taking the necessary measures to protect those who came into contact with it.

    This case was a criminal prosecution. Britain has the worst mesothelioma incidence in the world and yet, so far, no one has been brought to justice before a criminal court for causing a death from mesothelioma. Today’s landmark verdict is a crucial step towards bringing to justice the individuals and organisations who knew of the dangers of asbestos but failed to take the necessary measures to protect those who came into contact with it.

    A book is published today, February 13th, that shows the deceit and lies that allowed Eternit to continue exposing people to asbestos long after they were aware of the dangers. “Eternit and The Great Asbestos Trial” is on the IBAS website

    -------------------------------------------------------

    We are very saddened to hear of the death from mesothelioma of Brenda Butcher. Brenda had worked as a cleaner and caretaker in a primary school where she had cleaned asbestos lagged pipes and a boiler.

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    Debate House of Commons Asbestos in Schools - Tuesday 7 February 2012 -(Hansard text)

    Ian Lavery MP led the debate. He said many children's lives were potentially being put at risk because the amount of asbestos, which can cause the fatal disease mesothelioma later in life, was not known. A culture of openness was required so parents knew if their children were at risk, he told the Commons during an adjournment debate. The slamming of doors and the removal of drawing pins from the walls could release dangerous particles in the air, while lagging, which contains asbestos, insulated the central heating systems of many schools, MPs heard.

    Mr Lavery added: "In terms of openness we have a huge problem. The presence and incidents of asbestos fibre release is often played down. It's accurate to suggest that many parents are not aware or not informed of the presence of asbestos at their children's place of education. A recent survey found that at least a half of school staff were not informed of the problem either......"

    Comment: The adjournment debate lasted around half an hour and members of all parties expressed concerns. It can also be seen on Parliamentary TV 7th Feb 7hours 30 minutes from the start

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    The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health says the presence of lethal dust fibres in school buildings is a “national scandal” (1 Feb 2012)

    A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group has exposed the level of danger from asbestos in Britain’s schools. In launching the report, Jim Sheridan MP, Chair of the All-Party Group said “This is a national scandal. Urgent action is needed to prevent more pupils, teachers and other staff being exposed to this deadly killer dust. We need both far greater awareness of the risks that this material poses and a programme for its phased removal......” Full statement at this link

    The APPG report highlights the case for urgent action. It not only outlines the problem but makes six clear and simple recommendations about how we can prevent future exposure in our schools.

    • The Government should set a programme for the phased removal of asbestos from all schools, with priority being given to those schools where the asbestos is considered to be most dangerous or damaged.
    • Standards in asbestos training should be set and the training should be mandatory. The training should be properly funded.
    • It is recommended that the DfE and HSE jointly develop asbestos guidance specifically for schools and that current standards be reviewed.
    • A policy of openness should be adopted. Parents, teachers and support staff should be annually updated on the presence of asbestos in their schools and the measures that are being taken to manage it.
    • Pro-active inspections to determine the standards of asbestos management should be reinstated, with a view to reducing future costs.
    • Data should be collected centrally on the extent, type and condition of asbestos in schools and this becomes an integral part of the data collection of the condition of the nation’s schools.

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    Lords debate 30 Jan Hansard:..... Lord Avebury "Now the Government have decided, according to yesterday’s Independent on Sunday, that in a major survey to be undertaken of England’s 23,000 schools to plan a huge refurbishment programme, asbestos is to be ignored because of cost implications. The system built schools of the 1960s were riddled with amosite brown asbestos sheeting, which is one of the reasons why we have the highest incidence of deaths from mesothelioma in the world. As a result of this possibly illegal exclusion from the survey, compounded by the stripping of funding needed by local authorities to carry out their survey responsibilities under the Control of Asbestos Regulations, instead of the decline in mesothelioma deaths—the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said that that decline was expected to occur from 2012 onwards—as they tail off over the next 40 years, they may continue for the rest of the century........."

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    Independent on Sunday: The Government has deliberately excluded asbestos from an unprecedented review of the condition of the country's schools because it knows that tackling the risks to schoolchildren and teachers could cost hundreds of millions, critics claim. Campaigners reacted with fury last night as it emerged a year-long survey of England's 23,000 schools will examine every aspect of buildings – from classroom decoration to whether fire alarms and toilets are in working order – but will specifically exclude asbestos, the most serious threat of all to staff and pupils

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    Latest update on concerns over Ministerial action, and submissions that appear ethically unsound to Committees responsible for assessing the risks to children in schools from asbestos. It includes:

    1. Minister excludes asbestos from audit of school buildings.
    2. Deaths and apparent secret cost benefit analysis.
    3. Government Agencies provide misleading data to scientific and medical committees.
    4. Department of Health Committee: increased risk to children from asbestos exposure

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    Letter from Brent Council published as part of PCC resolution makes school safety claims that appear unjustified. Detailed comment at the link.

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    Parliamentary Question One: The reply illustrated Government policy to leave asbestos in situ even when a school has a 70% rebuild. This policy means that generations of staff and pupils will remain at risk. This is in contrast to the policy practiced by DfE for their own offices where asbestos has been removed.

    Comment: Nottinghamshire County council consider that in a school building such as CLASP, with a significant amount of asbestos in its structure, it more cost effective to replace the building rather than refurbish it. http://brilliantbookaward.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/claspreportupdateappendix126012009.pdf (There are about 3,000 CLASP buildings, most of which are schools. There are 2,000 SCOLA buildings, all of which are schools. 400 Hills Schools and many thousands of similar buildings containing significant amounts of asbestos.)

    Parliamentary Question Two: Asbestos excluded from the audit of the condition of school buildings The Minister of State for Schools replied that asbestos would be excluded from the Schools Property Data Survey. (PDS)

    Comment: It is illogical and financially irresponsible to exclude asbestos from the PDS as its presence imposes significant ongoing financial costs in maintaining school buildings, and for many schools it presents one of the greatest costs when the school is refurbished or demolished. It also poses a significant risk to the occupants.

    As the PDS will be “used to provide evidence of the current condition of schools, and enable future maintenance funding allocations to be focused on the buildings with the greatest need” the specific exclusion of asbestos is extraordinary and the Minister's reasons for doing so should now be questioned.

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    A national asbestos trade union campaign group has called for the government to continue its commitment to the funding of online asbestos awareness training for all staff following the recent prosecution of a leading university for failing to manage the asbestos on their campus properly. .... The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) said today that the recent judgment against University of Lincoln indicated how easily things can go wrong with asbestos in educational institutions, and underlines how important it is for Department for Education (DfE) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to continue working together on elearning and online training of education professionals in being able to identify and successfully manage asbestos.

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    A new report from the Asbestos in Schools (AiS) group... .This paper examines the extent, type and condition of asbestos in schools and the risks to the occupants.....The paper shows how staff and pupils have been exposed to cumulatively significant levels of asbestos fibres.... .It gives examples of classroom activities that can frequently release significant levels of asbestos fibres. .There is analysis of the results of air sampling that demonstrates that the actual levels of asbestos fibres can be significantly higher, particularly in schools, than recorded in the results..... .It describes how workplace control levels are applied to the occupants of schools and the unsafe practices that have resulted from this... . It then analyses the reasons staff and pupils are frequently not aware of their exposure or are advised not to enter it in their medical records..... The paper examines the particular vulnerability of children to asbestos.

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    HSE has published its Mesothelioma statistics for 2009. The deaths continue to rise and have now reached 2,321. The incidence of mesothelioma in Britain is the worst in the world at 37.8 per million per annum and rising, whereas the incidence in the USA has stabilised at about 14 per million per annum since 1999. There are less female mesothelioma deaths than males, but the incidence of deaths amongst females is increasing at a greater rate than that of males, it is thought that their deaths will peak some years after the male deaths.

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    Very worrying further information from the HSE.

    On the 14th October HSE published a summary of the inspections and enforcement action taken against Academies, Foundation Schools, Voluntary Aided and Independent Schools. Almost a third of Independent schools inspected by HSE had enforcement action taken. More than half of the schools that carry out their own building and maintenance work had not given their staff asbestos training and had enforcement action taken against them.  The following papers list the breaches in Health and Safety and Asbestos Regulations and analyse and comment on the implications.

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    The latest update (11 Oct) on Asbestos in Schools contains worrying news from the HSE:

    • Schools failing to manage asbestos. HSE recent enforcement action details
    • HSE and Minister using unsafe workplace asbestos fibre levels for children
    • Department of Health will at last assess the relative vulnerability of children to asbestos
    • Media articles on:
      1. Pro-active health and safety asbestos HSE inspections are stopping
      2. James Review into capital spending in schools asked to audit asbestos
      3. Dangerous flaws in DfE responses to asbestos questions asked by Sec Ed

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    Sec Ed has published a detailed article on asbestos in schools. They have asked the Department for Education a number of questions on the dangers of asbestos in schools. The DfE have replied on the same page. Their reply is complacent, it avoids critical issues, conceals a policy that has prevented teachers and parents being told about dangerous exposures and it is misleading. The next edition of Sec Ed has a letter that exposes the failures in DfE's answers.

    The first article, 10 questions to DfE and DfE response.

    The letter identifying the dangerously wrong responses from DfE (bottom half of page 6)

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    There is a mesothelioma seminar organised by Mesothelioma UK and the British Oncology Group in London on 30th September and 1st October in the Novotel Hotel, St Pancras in London. Friday is a scientific seminar and the Saturday is aimed at patients and carers and other interested people. The agenda and speakers for Friday are at this link and for Saturday at this link.

    If people wish to attend please contact: British Thoracic Oncology Group and Mesothelioma UK
    Website:  www.BTOG.org or Email:  dawn.mckinley@uhl-tr.nhs.uk

    We are greatly saddened to hear of the death of Graham Butterfield, a teacher who has died of mesothelioma.

    At an inquest in Bradford on 6th September, “Acting Bradford Coroner Professor Paul Marks recorded a verdict that Mr Butterfield had died of an industrial disease contracted while he worked at various schools in Bradford. He had worked as a geography teacher at Hutton Middle School and Tong Comprehensive School between 1967 and 1996, and while at Hutton had helped with the cabling of computers which involved being in the basement and service tunnels, exposing him to asbestos lagging dust.”

    Mrs Butterfield said: “I cannot believe that he was exposed to this dust in a teaching environment which should be a safe place for our children to learn.... “I call upon politicians of all parties to look seriously at the problem of asbestos in schools and plan properly how to ensure the safety of teachers and pupils in the future. Nothing can bring Graham back and we miss him every day, but I desperately want something positive to come from his death so that nobody else goes through what we have been through.”

    The Times: Britain's death rate from mesothelioma is the highest in the world. So why do three quarters of our schools still contain asbestos? .... Professor Julian Peto, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says that children are more likely to contract mesothelioma because they have longer to do so.....

    Comment: A good double page article by Mark Piggott. There were three excellent letters in response from the Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, from Dr Andrew Lawson and Paul Rowen a former MP. They not only point out the way forward, but illustrate the worries in schools and hospitals. They comment from specialist knowledge and experience on major flaws in the DfE comments and the health service response. One DfE defensive statement being labelled "risible". To see their letters and a short factual analysis see this link

    (The Times is a subscription web site subscribe £1 to see the 8 July article)

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    House of Commons Early Day Motion 11 July That this House congratulates the many asbestos support groups throughout the country who on 1 July 2011 came together to remember the thousands of people who have died of mesothelioma, an asbestos-related disease for which there is no cure; expresses concern that the British mesothelioma death rate is the highest in the world; is concerned at this and the rising number of deaths of teachers and other support workers working in schools due to the large number of schools which still contain asbestos; commends the work of the Asbestos in Schools Group; and calls on the Government to adopt US-style policies of disclosure with local authorities and governors, providing an annual update to parents and teachers on the condition and management of asbestos in schools.

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    Government urged to be open with parents over asbestos in schools - as in the USA....

    ......“The government’s concern about adopting a more open policy on asbestos in schools appears to be that if the public understand the nature of the problem they’re only going to panic. And in their panic, they’re going to want all asbestos removed from each and every school, which the government appears to believe is too high a price. This concern is exaggerated: the panic has not happened in the United States.  We are campaigning for effective asbestos management and progressive, not immediate, removal.”......

    By contrast, because of the particular vulnerability of children to ACM exposure in schools, in 1986 the United States Congress passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act or AHERA. Not only does AHERA require all schools to audit their ACMs and develop appropriate management plans but each school authority must regularly communicate that plan to every parent and teacher, with updated surveillance of ACMs taking place every six months

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    There is an update on the paper "The increased vulnerability of children to asbestos" at this link. It makes sobering reading and assesses how many children may be dying as adults from asbestos exposure in schools. It concludes:

    "Despite the warnings and the increasing death toll they (government) have failed to take a precautionary approach. The scale of the problem has never been assessed and neither has an assessment been made of the risks. ...... Many have died and many will die.

    The way forward is to follow the basic principles of risk management. Assess the scale of the problem then base a proper risk analysis on researched facts and the best science available. Asbestos policy and the management of asbestos in schools can then be based on that firm foundation. In the meantime adopt the precautionary approach that has been advised by the authoritative experts and agencies over the last forty years.".

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    Flawed Government policy over HSE proactive inspections of the standards of asbestos management in schools In March Chris Grayling MP, the Minister with responsibility for the HSE, announced that HSE would no longer be carrying out pro-active inspections of low risk premises such as .... LA schools....... A few years ago HSE rarely carried out proactive inspections of the standards of asbestos management in schools with the inevitable consequence that unsafe systems of asbestos management passed unnoticed and uncorrected. The usual practice was that inspections were only undertaken following an asbestos incident when it was too late as the damage had already been done.

    In the last few years AiS have successfully exerted pressure on the Government to change their policy, and since then a reasonable number of proactive inspections have been carried out by the HSE. The latest series has just been completed and was of 162 independent schools (The results will be published in the next two months) It was therefore a retrograde step when the Minister announced that in future the inspections would revert to just proactive inspections.

    (For more detail and links to government policy documents and press release follow this link).

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    School staff and parents are not being informed of their, and their children’s, asbestos exposure....... HSE guidance is contrary to expert medical opinion and to the definition of significant exposure accepted by the High Court, Appeal Court and Supreme Court....... There is no scientific or moral justification for this bad guidance. HSE guidance LAC5/19 should be withdrawn without further delay.

    At the link is a brief based on the reply to a Parliamentary question to the Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP and the Minister responsible for the HSE

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    House of Lords Grand Committee debate - Lord MacKenzie - Former health and safety minister Lord McKenzie has warned that government plans to cut local authority safety inspections by a third may leave employees at greater risk. Asbestos in Schools is specifically mentioned in the penultimate paragraph of the full debate at the link.

    Comment: It is of great concern that the Government has announced that HSE will no longer carry out proactive inspections of local authority schools. Ten years ago HSE rarely inspected schools to determine whether or not they were managing their asbestos effectively and safely. Consequently those schools who were not properly managing their asbestos passed undetected.

    The common practice was that inspections were only carried out following an asbestos incident, by which time the damage had been done. It is only in recent years that the HSE has undertaken proactive inspections in schools and by doing so have uncovered bad practice and the failure of a significant number of schools and local authorities to manage their asbestos. Without doubt the policy has  prevented staff and pupils being exposed to asbestos. Further comment at this link.

     

    .

    Union asbestos survey shows many schools remain at risk from asbestos (Monday 18 April 2011) - A nationwide survey .. of more than 600 school teacher and support staff safety representatives has flatly contradicted Health and Safety Executive claims that the government is meeting its legal obligations to address the issue of asbestos in schools.

    Julie Winn, Chairman of the Joint Union Asbestos Campaign (JUAC), a coalition of ten main unions within the education sector, said “JUAC was unable to accept HSE’s summary findings as these did not align with the experience of our members on the ground. JUAC decided to carry out a grassroots survey and the results confirm the disparity between the information received from our members and what local authorities (LAs) are reporting back to the HSE.

    JUAC analysis of the survey at this facebook post

    ....... the survey shows the worrying gap between what LAs claim to the HSE is happening, and the reality at ground level"......... "Training fund for staff is less than £1 a school"

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    Early Day Motion in the House of Commons number 1578 That this House notes the Supreme Court judgement of 9 March 2011 that upheld that Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council negligently exposed Dianne Willmore to asbestos when she was a pupil at her secondary school; further notes with sadness that she died of mesothelioma aged 49 the day after the Appeal Court hearing; acknowledges the increasing numbers of school teachers who are dying of the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma and that more than 140 died in the 10 year period from 1999 to 2008; believes that an assessment of the risk to children from asbestos exposure should be undertaken; and calls on the Government to commission such a study.

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    Sarah Bowman, 41 was diagnosed with the deadly cancer, mesothelioma, in August 2009 ....... She said: "The school officially opened in November 1975, which I’ve since learned was a time when asbestos was still being used in the construction of education buildings. We regularly saw walls and partitions in classrooms broken through general day-to-day wear. ...... "When the doctor told me I cried my eyes out. I asked him if I was dying and he just put his head down. "Telling my two children was the worst part."

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    Government changes to Health and Safety put schools at risk. Today (21 March) the Government announced its proposals for “Reforming Britain’s health and safety regime to put common sense back.” The proposals will inevitably lead to a reduction in safety standards in schools and to the occupants being at an increased risk from asbestos.

    For a short summary and the government press release see this link

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    Supreme Court Ruling 9 March All seven Law Lords found in favour of Dianne Willmore who was contaminated by asbestos when a pupil at school. This case is important for any person who has had small doses of asbestos exposure and has contracted mesothelioma.  For the solicitors press release and that of the Asbestos Victims Support Forum see this link

    Supreme Court Press Summary
    Supreme Court Full Judgement
    Channel 4 News report at this link other reports on this page

    A Facebook page has been launched today to inform, give guidance and encourage openness. Please join in and help make schools safer.

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    Latest Update : BBC programme on asbestos in schools - Rising teachers death rate - No Government assesment of the risks to school children - Parliamentary answer from Schools Minister over deaths in schools and asbestos management policy - HSE recent enforcement actions against schools and a University the details

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    The latest statistics for teachers' and lecturers' mesothelioma deaths have been released and are analysed here. Sadly the numbers have increased once again.... . Between 1980-1985 on average 3 school teachers were dying each year of mesothelioma, in the latest period 16 died each year.

    The Minister of State for Schools has failed to commission the WATCH committee to assess the relevance of these deaths and assess the asbestos risks to children. (Their final meeting to discuss low level asbestos risks is on 24th February.) Instead in a new Parliamentary answer Nick Gibb MP has dismissed the deaths. His answer is not only misleading but it also demonstrates an unacceptable level of complacency. (New -The analysis is at this link)

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    Parliamentary Education Questions on the dilapidated state of schools and BSF. John Cryer MP opened the questions and Stella Creasy MP raised the issue of asbestos. If schools are in a dilapidated state then invariably the asbestos they contain will be in a similar state. The scrapping of BSF has meant that many schools which were going to have major refurbishments, or were going to be rebuilt, are now just going to have essential maintenance work carried out.  One of the major expenses in refurbishing schools or even bringing them up to a sound state of repair, is removing or making safe the asbestos. The schools capital spending review is overdue and it is to be seen whether it has allocated sufficient funds to carry out the essential work on asbestos to make the schools safe. There is also a serious problem with leaking roofs and windows in many schools. Not only does this cause the obvious problems but also as the leaking water passes over asbestos materials it picks up fibres which then precipitate out when the water dries in the classrooms.

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    New guidance from the National Union of Teachers informing their local oficers about the hazards that can arise from asbestos in schools

    Minister's Answer to Parliamentary Question: New analysis: "In principle the Minister argues that it is acceptable for school teachers to die from an asbestos related disease as it is a normal hazard of working life. He is wrong....   In a profession where there should be minimal or no asbestos exposure teachers should not be dying of asbestos related disease – but they are.  In occupations such as farming where they genuinely have little asbestos exposure they have well below average death rates, and teachers should also. The fact that teachers have “average” death rates shows that as a profession they have been exposed to asbestos."

    "... just because a dangerous carcinogen is killing people in other occupations it does not make it acceptable that it is also killing people in schools...... The .... difference .................. is that as the teachers were being exposed to asbestos, then so were the children. It is known that children are more at risk from asbestos exposure. .............. That is why there is great concern about teachers’ deaths, as they indicate a far greater number of subsequent deaths amongst the children."

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    Update 117 - An analysis of the Coalition Government's developing policies with links to government statements, policies and papers that appear to place children and staff at risk from asbestos in schools.

    Contents:

    • Most schools contain asbestos. DETR report “the entire school population has been exposed to asbestos in school buildings.”
    • Government is making policies without assessing the scale of the problem or the risks
    • Schools capital spending review. Major financial decisions without knowing the scale of the problem
    • Schools opting out of LA control. Governors’ legal responsibilities. Failure to address asbestos implications.
    • Government policy: Asbestos to be left in situ and managed until the building reaches the end of its life.
    • Training not compulsory. Total funds allocated for training all headteachers £20,000
    • No intention to draft guidance for schools. Some guidance is confusing or dangerous.
    • Government policy of management is based on flawed survey of standards of asbestos management.

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    Call for a Parliamentary Committee to take evidence, consider and report on asbestos in schools.

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    Parliamentary Questions Annette Brooke MP asked a Parliamentary Question about the numbers of school staff and children affected by asbestos related illness. The answer follows the standard government position of refusing to analyse or assess the deaths of children in later life from asbestos in schools. The answers are particularly concerning as the government analysis of teacher's death rates is fundamentally flawed and appears deliberately misleading. There is also an assumption, with no evidence, that, although 70% of schools contain asbestos, teachers who have died of mesothelioma must have contracted it from asbestos encountered elsewhere.

    A new analysis of the answer is at this link with a link to the PQ. In addition there is a closely referenced paper demonstrating that teachers' death rates are significantly higher than they should be.

    Parliamentary Questions John Cryer MP asked a series of detailed Parliamentary Questions. The answers by the Minister, Nick Gibb, are very concerning as financial decisions on the school capital programme appear to be flawed and decisions are being made / have been made which appear to be dangerous. The parliamentary questions and the analysis of the replies are at this link.

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    The North East Asbestos Support and Awareness Group have done an analysis of the replies from councils in the North East of England to the recently published HSE survey of local authorities asbestos management in system built schools which raises a number of questions as to the overall value of the survey, and more so to the reliability of the responses given to the HSE”.

    This view was echoed by Dorset County Council who said: I’m concerned about the quality of this questionnaire and the potential for misinterpretation when the contents are analysed. It does not show the full picture of asbestos management and only concentrates on a very small area. The questions are confusing and potentially misleading (far too open to interpretation)

    The standard of compliance was not established in diocesan schools as only a handful replied, and no attempt was made to establish compliance in independent schools. The Minister has been briefed on this limited survey/questionnaire as an authoritative view of asbestos management standards in practice in all local authority schools and policy decisions will inevitably be based on it.

    All local authority’s responses are here and a summary of inspections at this link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/services . Two thirds of the authorities were not inspected because HSE assumed from their response that they had “procedures and precautions in place to manage asbestos safely. Kirklees Council’s response is typical of others and raises questions about whether they have been managing their asbestos safely.

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    Newsletter 116 at this link. Contains:

    • Supreme Court. (Profound implications for staff and pupils exposed to asbestos at school)
    • Check your local authorities response to HSE questionnaire
    • Minister Meeting. (Minister claims he has not seen critical safety reports. Despite assurances no statement on risk to children)
    • Succesful complaint to Press Complaints Commission (Daily Mail article by Christopher Booker)
    • Increase in mesothelioma deaths. (Latest HSE statistics show relentless rise)
    • Award to Michael Lees
    • Incidents and Press coverage

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    Post election progress on asbestos in schools Asbestos in Schools campaigners yesterday held an important meeting with Lord Hill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools. At the meeting the Minister agreed to the continuation of the steering group set up in the last Parliament to look at all aspects of risk, management and training for asbestos in schools.

    The steering group, which has been on hold since the change in Government, will hold a meeting in the coming months. For further details click this link.

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    The Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association writes about the flaws in the HSE "survey" of asbestos management in schools. It is worrying, factual reading with quotes from Local Authorities about the flaws and about cost implications driving the report rather than prevention of contamination of children. The article can be seen at this link.

    Concerns are rising over the latest Report issued by the HSE on asbestos management in schools John Richards, Managing Director of Thames Laboratories is one of many who have openly questioned the validity of the Report. He said: “Although HSE show the report as being overwhelmingly positive, those who campaign on this subject have been highly critical of the format, the review and the reliance placed on the honesty of the Authority and its understanding of what is a system built school... One authority in its response commented:

    “As per my previous e-mail, I’m concerned about the quality of this questionnaire and the potential for misinterpretation when the contents are analysed. It does not show the full picture of asbestos management and only concentrates on a very small area. The questions are confusing and potentially misleading (far too open to interpretation).”

    He continues: "The questionnaire has not examined the detail required for asbestos management and many questions such as annual re-inspections have been carefully avoided ...... Within the HSE’s detailed list we are aware of a number of authorities who have not undertaken re-inspections and who have had more than one asbestos issue over the last few years, but yet these are judged to be ok.  The message created by this report is in complete contrast to that produced from the recent Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association (ATAC) report at school level earlier in the year, where the report was conducted at school level and identified a number of key failings in most schools”.

    NUT comments on the HSE "Survey" “......... Apart from the fact that the survey was restricted to asbestos management in system built schools, the NUT questions how it can be claimed that the majority of local authorities meet legal requirements in terms of asbestos management when only 42 were actually visited by HSE inspectors. The other 110 simply completed an on-line survey, making the survey essentially a paper exercise, reliant on local authorities admitting to failings in their system of asbestos management in order to trigger a visit from the HSE.......

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    The Asbestos in schools group (AiS) will be meeting the Schools Minister Lord Hill on 14th October to determine the Coalition Government’s policies towards making schools safe from the dangers of asbestos.   They will ask him:

    • To identify those schools that contain the most dangerous asbestos and to prioritise them for refurbishment or replacement. 
    • To undertake an assessment of the risks to children from asbestos in schools.
    • Thousands of schools will have to manage their asbestos for many years to come and will therefore have to have rigorous and effective systems of asbestos management. Presently many do not. The AiS will therefore ask him to undertake a proper assessment of the standards of asbestos management in schools, so that all can be brought up to the standards of the best
    • The last Prime Minister acknowledged that there was a serious problem of asbestos in schools and ensured that a committee was set up to improve the asbestos management in schools. Five months after the election the committee has not met as the Coalition Government has not confirmed that it will continue its vital work. They will ask him to confirm that it will continue.

    Attached are reports on English, Scottish and Welsh schools condition and on the visit of Lord Hill to schools - one of which in Waltham Forest was subject to an HSE Improvement notice for failures in asbestos managment

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    HSE Report on asbestos in System built schools. An HSE report was issued on 21st September which summarised the responses from local authorities to a questionnaire asking whether they are complying with the law and asbestos guidance issued in 2006. The guidance concerned a dangerous asbestos problem in 'System Built' schools. The problem had first been identified in 1987, but no action had been taken until it was re-identified in 2006. The report also gives details of a number of authorities inspected by HSE of which a quarter required enforcement action.

    The questionnaire did not cover the many other types of schools that contain asbestos. It did not cover independent schools and 95% of diocese schools - the main owners of Voluntary Aided Schools - simply failed to respond. In addition the questionnaire cannot claim to be definitive as, unsurprisingly, few Authorities responded "no" when asked if they are complying with the law. Evidence shows such confidence is often misplaced.

    The press release asserts that the majority of local authorities are complying but it gives details that show a significant number are not managing their asbestos effectively.

    Analysis of the report at this link.

    Asbestos in Schools press release on the report

    HSE/DfES report and detail at this link.

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    Cancellation BSF Many, if not most of the schools that were going to be refurbished under the building schools for the future initiative (BSF) contain asbestos. It is known that some contain large amounts. All the asbestos is now old and it is known that some schools are of a type where they have a potential to release asbestos fibres into the classrooms, corridors and halls. When school buildings are replaced the asbestos problem is removed once and for all, also the previous Government had announced that asbestos would normally be removed when secondary schools are refurbished under BSF.

    Manor Foundation school in Sandwell is of a type of building that is likely to contain considerable amounts of asbestos. According to this article it “is riddled with asbestos” and “teachers had to close three classrooms”. It is therefore concerning that the refurbishment/replacement of a school such as this has been put on hold. The Asbestos in Schools Group have asked the Government to identify the schools that contain the most dangerous asbestos materials and prioritise them for refurbishment or replacement. (Also see "Water leaks in schools and the implications for asbestos contamination")

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    A new summary of the main issues and the latest situation is at this link

    TUC (27 July) Cancelling school building programme puts children at risk of asbestos exposure..... Many of the existing school buildings were built before 1970 and almost certainly contain asbestos. As these buildings fall into disrepair the risk of asbestos exposure increases dramatically. ...... Many schools have spent little on maintenance in the promise of being part of the new schools building programme.....

    Patricia Cameron, from Capheaton, Northumberland, died in 2004 from mesothelioma, after she was first exposed to asbestos while working at Otterburn First School in the 1970s. A Coroner's inquest heard the mother-of-three had levels of asbestos in her body similar to that found in people who have worked in heavy industry..... Children exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to develop mesothelioma than adult teachers in the same environment.

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    The HSE have taken enforcement action because of failures by local authorities to ensure schools are safe from the dangers of asbestos.

    Quote from one HSE notice "You have failed to manage the risks from asbestos.. in particular the primary schools... You do not have adequate measures in place for monitoring the condition of any asbestos"

    A press release ( 15 July) is attached at the link above with the local authorities identified, the details of the breaches and evidence of the problem being endemic in schools in the UK. It also identifies action taken and needed by government.

    "These are not minor problems that have crept in over recent years; rather they are fundamental problems that are endemic in schools in the UK" Chairman Asbestos Consultants' Association after an ATAC investigation of the problem.

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    A Summary of the past and present situation of asbestos in schools is at this link. It is a background paper issued to delegates at the Asbestos and the Law conference in Lioverpool on 18 June 2010

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    Voice is the Union for educational professionals. They are asking for “The creation of an action plan for asbestos in schools. They say asbestos is present in around 75% of schools in Britain – in ceilings, wall linings and pipe lagging. In the last 25 years, at least 178 teachers have died from mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. There are no statistics for pupil fatalities because of the disease’s long latency. 

    The education unions are concerned about the risk to staff and pupils in schools where little is known about its location and condition. ATAC’s recent audit and Voice’s own research reveal that in many schools staff are not aware of the dangers of asbestos; they do not know where it is and are not involved in its management.  

    Urgent action is required to improve standards of asbestos management, and to create an action plan for asbestos in schools, including: audits, risk assessments, relevant training and guidance, and for all asbestos to be identified and removed in a phased programme when schools are refurbished. "

    Voice has a short "Election Manifesto". The detailed wording on asbestos is item 11 on the link.

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    House of Commons Early Day Motion 975 That this House is concerned by the recent report of the Asbestos Training and Consultancy Association, which highlights systemic failings in the management of asbestos in schools; notes with alarm that around 75 per cent. of schools contain this potentially deadly substance; further notes that at least 178 school teachers have died from the fatal disease mesothelioma, which is contracted from asbestos; welcomes the decision by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to set up a steering group to examine all aspects of risk, management and training for asbestos in schools; and calls on the Government to take further steps to tackle this problem and to ensure that adequate guidance and training is in place for the protection of staff and pupils.

    It is with great sadness that we report the death of Rosie Peters who died on Monday the 15th March 2010 from mesothelioma.

    Rosie retired from teaching in 2007 after a forty year teaching career. It is highly probable that she was exposed to asbestos in a number of schools she taught in so that the cumulative exposure caused her mesothelioma.

    Rosie was determined that this would not happen to others and fought strongly and bravely to raise the profile of the terrible legacy of asbestos in schools. As part of that she spoke eloquently at conferences and in a number of TV and press interviews. The Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry had shared the same platform as her at the Mesothelioma Action day and spoke warmly about her in a Parliamentary debate last March.  On Wednesday in Westminster Hall Paul Rowen MP asked for a minute's silence to be held in memory of Rosie at the start of the meeting of the Asbestos in Schools Group.

    Rosie was a lovely and very brave lady.

    We will carry on her fight, and we will ensure that schools are made safe from the dangers of asbestos so that what has happened to her will not happen to others.

    Clinica (World Specialists in Medical Technology) exclusively reports 11 year old research into children' exposure at school was omitted from official guidance. It says the data is "shocking"

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    Parliamentary Question: Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what training is provided to teachers on asbestos management and safety; and what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of such provision.

    Comment: The Minister's reply (24 Feb) appears to be contrary to the regulations and appears to be breaking the law. The relevant regulations state that: “Every employer shall ensure that adequate information, instruction and training is given to those of his employees who are or who are liable to be exposed to asbestos….”. It is known that teachers and support staff have disturbed asbestos and have been exposed, and it is known that unless they are trained they are liable to be exposed in the future. By law the employer is therefore required to give adequate information, instruction and training to the teachers and support staff so that such exposures to both them and the children can be prevented. It is criminal not to do so.

    See the question, the Minister's flawed reply and analysis of the Minister's reply at this link.

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    Parliamentary Question: Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment she has made of the follow-up work to the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) Asbestos Management in Schools survey; how many visits by the HSE to local education authorities have been made following the survey; and when she estimates the HSE follow-up work will be completed. [318515]. To see the Minister's holding reply and the dangerous implications of the Minister's position see this link

    Ministerial action following the damning ATaC report on asbestos in schools (see red box below) The Schools Minister Diana Johnson MP met the asbestos in schools group and ATac representative yesterday (24 Feb) and agreed to the setting up of a steering group to look at all aspects of risk, management and training for asbestos in schools. The first meeting of the steering group will take place next month. See a short Press release

    New Report Condemns Schools Asbestos Management

    A report from the Asbestos Training and Consultancy Association (ATaC) highlights the failings of schools across the country to protect pupils and staff from asbestos. The Chairman of ATAC, John O’Sullivan, said: “These are not minor problems that have crept in over recent years; rather they are fundamental problems that are endemic in schools in the UK.” See the report

    ATaC conducted a pilot assessment on schools who volunteered to take part. The report found widespread failings in asbestos management, with some schools having no knowledge of asbestos management at all. The report argues that schools are not complying with their legal duty to manage asbestos, and training surrounding asbestos in schools is poor or non-existent.

    The report will be handed to the Schools Minister Diana Johnson MP on 24 February before a meeting with the Asbestos in Schools Group chaired by Paul Rowen MP.

    Read a press release where the General Secretaries of UNISON, Voice, ATL, NUT, NASUWT, ASCL, GMB national president. UNITE and NAHT express their worries and the situation is summarised.

    Read a misleading statement from DCSF about an early draft of the ATaC report. The DCSF statement is followed by detailed and forceful comment, based on authoritative references, that identifies the flaws in the statement - including safety flaws in guidance on fibre levels.


    Inspectors say schools fail to protect pupils and staff from asbestos Asbestos tests on dozens of schools have revealed "unacceptable" safety standards that could be putting thousands of of children and teachers at risk... Analysts who conducted the nationwide survey found that too few head teachers manage asbestos properly; many rely on containment plans more than a decade old and some have never drawn up plans at all.

    The audit, by the Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association, also found that some schools had asbestos particles in the air ......... A preliminary report said that most schools are failing to comply with their legal "duty to manage" the asbestos, that the responsibility for ensuring safety was dogged by confusion, and that staff training was "either poor or non-existent".

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    Asbestos to be left in place in primary school refurbishment under Primary Capital Programme. A parliamentary question and comment on the response is at the link

    Major Concerns about Asbestos Management at Non Local Authority Schools. HSE and Local Authorities have made asbestos management in non-Local Education Authority schools a priority for action in 2010. In 2004 this sector was recognised by HSE as being particularly weak on asbestos awareness and management, consequently a priority of the defunct 2004 HSE schools campaign was to target them. As the campaign was dropped no action has been taken, but the poor response from the recent DCSF/HSE questionnaire has once again shown that although there are many flaws in asbestos management in local authority schools, the situation is considerably worse outside. See the link for a press release from the Chair of the Campaign against Asbestos in Schools

    For detail see  http://www.lacors.gov.uk/lacors/NewsarticleDetails.aspx?id=22456  then follow the link Delivery Portfolio 2010-11 The notice is at paragraph 4.

    A press release from the asbestos in schools group is here

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    New Analysis Parliamentary Question 15 Dec Baroness Quin : To ask Her Majesty's Government how many teachers have contracted asbestos-related diseases. [HL648]. The reply from the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Children in the Lords is very flawed and misleading. Each factual error, example of statistical spin, each attempt to conceal teachers' deaths and the proven risk to teachers and each attempt to avoid analysing children's deaths and that of support staff is identified and corrected at the link. Each point is referenced to authoritative sources.

    Mr David Kitchin, a master at Farleigh School, Andover died of mesothelioma on 21 January 2009. According to a High Court writ he was exposed to asbestos dust and fibres in the Stone Passageway, the route into the main school .....Overhead central heating and hot water pipes lagged with blue asbestos ran in the passageway, and the lagging was friable, making the atmosphere contaminated with asbestos, the writ says. It is claimed that pupils also disturbed the lagging by jumping up to swing on the pipes.

    Parliamentary question 8 Dec. This concerns the DCSF questionnaire that attempted to assess the management of asbestos in schools and the compliance with HSE guidance on asbestos in System built schools. In his answer the Schools Minister, Vernon Coaker MP has refused to publish any of the responses from the questionnaire. The Minister’s reason for his refusal is that “this information may be required for legal purposes.” The same reply was given by HSE to the asbestos in schools group at their meeting with the Parliamentary Under–Secretary Dianne Johnson MP when they asked which local authorities were being investigated and which had failed to reply.

    Comment It is unacceptable that the Minister refuses to publish the names of the councils that have failed to reply or are being investigated, for as well as being a legal matter this is a matter that affects the safety of the occupants of schools. Therefore the names of the failing councils who are potentially putting teachers, support staff and children at risk should be made public without further delay.

    For further information see :
    11 Nov: Meeting with the new Schools Minister Diana Johnson MP   
     DCSF Questionnaire - 15 Nov 09 Determining the scale of the problem in System Built Schools

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    Scotland - December 2009. An investigative report by Highland News into the situation of asbestos management in Scottish schools has prompted an HSE Improvement Notice on Highland Council. At the same link a Public Petition on behalf of schools in Scotland asking for action with a discussion by the Scottish Parliamentary Committee of the petition and their proposed action.

    30 Nov - A 5 minute video on BBC News about the unsatisfactory results of the DCSF questionnaire about asbestos in System Built schools.

    24 and 26 Nov - Three Parliamentary Questions by Paul Rowen MP and answers from Sec of State for Children Schools and Families about dealing with asbestos in the Building Schools for the Future programme

    11 Nov: Meeting with the new Schools Minister Diana Johnson MP The Asbestos in Schools Group discussed the HSE/DCSF flawed questionnaire inaccurately claimed as a comprehensive audit of standards of asbestos management in schools. The HSE brief on the returns from the questionnaire (now 7 months late) and the lack of responses made it clear that there are some serious flaws in the manner that schools are managing their asbestos (paper at this link). The Minister and the HSE appeared, for the first time, to be prepared to listen to the Prime Minister (who has already acknowledged there is a problem) and also listen to the united Teachers Unions, the support unions the specialist scientists, the asbestos consultants' association and specialist solicitors - all of whom have been saying there is a problem of asbestos management in schools and have been suggesting practical ways of identifying the scale of the problem and resolving it.

    27 Oct: Parliamentary Question: Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many schools have been found to contain hazardous asbestos in the last 12 months; in how many of those schools all asbestos has been removed; at what cost; and what assessment has been made of the health of (a) teachers and (b) pupils attending schools where asbestos has been found. [291622].

    Reply includes the statement "It has highlighted the need for further investigation and follow up" into "how asbestos is being managed in System Built schools"

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    I have to report the tragic news that Dianne Wilmore died on 15 October. It was the day after she won her fight for justice in the Appeal Court over exposure to asbestos as a child at school. Our deepest sympathies go to her family

    Please click this link to see more from her solicitors and from us.

    A BBC Today Programme interview describes what the Government is being asked to do to identify asbestos in schools and do risk assesments following Dianne Willmore's death and the Appeal Court ruling in her favour.

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    Royal Court of Justice Appeal Verdict - 14 Oct 2009 This is a very important appeal ruling which will have profound consequences for every member of staff and pupil who has been exposed to asbestos in a school. Further details of the case are at this link.

    Summary: In July 2009 Liverpool High Court found Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council liable for damages for  negligently exposing Dianne Wilmore to asbestos fibres while she was a pupil at her secondary school in Huyton. The Appeal Court upheld the verdict.

    Malta and Tasmania have taken the decision to remove asbestos from schools working with the Commonwealth through the stimulus package and the Building in Education Revolution spending. Comment and detailed statements under "Malta and Tasmania 6 Oct" at this link

    17 September TUC Conference Dr Mary Bousted, the General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers called for a risk assessment and a comprehensive audit of asbestos in educational establishmentsand the standards of management. She also called for the restarting of the Asbestos in Schools campaign, training for those managing asbestos in schools, and all asbestos to be identified and removed by 2015, with the most dangerous asbestos removed first.  The resolution was passed unanimously.. .A seperate article on this issue by Dr Mary Bousted is at this link. Also see Conference Motion 78

    21 September Scottish Parliament. Parents are as concerned in Scotland as they are in the remainder of the UK about their children attending schools where the local authorities do not have robust systems of asbestos management. A petition has therefore been put before the Scottish Parliament where MSPs raised the issue of the standards of management, the unwarranted secrecy surrounding asbestos in schools and the need to determine the extent of the problem so that a proper response can be made. The details of the committee meetings, the petition and the action being taken are at the Scottish Parliament link

    31 July Latest update, includes

    • Campaign now part of All Party Parliamentary Group - Letter to all MPs.
    • Parliamentary answers show that Government Policy lacks scientific basis
    • British Safety Council support key principles of campaign
    • Most local authorities and Dioceses fail to respond to DCSF questionnaire on asbestos. Minister promises enforcement action
    • Joint teaching Union and AtaC project to assess asbestos management in 100 schools.
    • Minister fails to act on PM direction

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    21 July Parliamentary questions confirm that the Government has no risk assesment model for assessing the health risks to children of exposure to asbestos fibres.

    The answers show that the Schools Minister, the DCSF and HSE current guidance that children's exposure to 48 fibres/millilitre of air is "usually insufficent to pose a significant long risk to health" has no sound scientific basis.

    It also shows that the Schools Minister recommendation that parents are not informed of their children's exposure unless the "Action Level" has been exceeded is a recommendation based on an outdated standard and is not based on a sound scientific analysis of the risk to the children exposed.

    The answers also show that asbestos will generally be left in primary schools during refurbishment

    For the Parliamentary Questions, the answers and referenced analysis of the above points click this link.

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    Prime Minister acknowledges that there is a problem in schools that has to be addressed. A delegation representing six Teacher Unions presented a paper to the Prime Minister voicing their concerns about the problem of asbestos in schools. The delegates were the General Secretaries of ATL and the NASUWT and the Assistant Secretary of the NUT. In full support and agreement on the statement were the teaching unions Voice, ASCL and NAHTA. Specialist scientists, solicitors, Health and Safety specialist organisations and asbestos support groups are also in full support and agreed the statement. The delegation was led by Paul Rowen MP (Lib Dem Shadow spokesman W&P). Michael Lees was also a delegate. The Union GMB announced it would join the campaign shortly afterwards. The full list is here

    The Prime Minister acknowledged that there is a problem and that it would be addressed, and instructed that a further meeting should take place in the near future with the Schools Minister to decide the way forward.

    The four key points in the paper are:

    1. A comprehensive audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in schools, and the standards of management.
    2. An assessment to be made of the risk to the occupants, with particular emphasis on children.
    3. The asbestos in schools campaign to be reinstated.
    4. All the asbestos is to be identified and removed in a phased programme when schools are refurbished under BSF and PCP.

    The complete text presented to the Prime Minister is at this link.

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    Parliamentary Seminar contrasts asbestos management in Parliament and that in schools
    A Parliamentary asbestos seminar followed the PM meeting. There were various presentations including one describing the well resourced and highly efficient asbestos management systems in the Palace of Westminster. The General Secretary of ATL gave a joint presentation with a teacher dying of mesothelioma. The General Secretary of ATL pointed out the considerable differences between the resources and standards in asbestos management in the Palace of Westminster compared to those in schools.

    Daily Mirror report on the meeting

    Update 7 May 2009. The update contains a report of a formal complaint about HSE scientific tests (including complaints of non-declared commercial interests, secrecy and lack of peer review). It also includes an analysis of misleading standard statements produced by authorities about asbestos in schools, it reports on the very supportive Teachers Unions AGMs, including a presentation by a teacher dying of mesothelima. It also contains an excellent BBC Radio investigation of school asbestos management at every level.

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    The Prime Minister agrees to meeting on 13 May. Liberal Democrat MP Paul Rowen asked the Prime Minister on Prime Minister's Questions to meet a delegation to discuss how concerns over asbestos in schools could be allayed. Responding, Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed that asbestos was a crucial issue, and agreed to meet the delegation.

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    Yesterday (6 May) the Prime Minister also met asbestos campaigners at a private meeting in the House of Commons. On the agenda were a series of issues including: the fatal legacy left by asbestos manufacturing in Britain, the consequences of low level exposures to asbestos, the asbestos contamination of schools and the urgent need for a coordinated national research strategy for medical treatment and cures for asbestos-related diseases.

    Having acknowledged the threat posed by low level exposures to asbestos, the Prime Minister confirmed that further discussion on asbestos in schools will take place at a Westminster meeting on 13 May. Full report

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    Conference on "Mesothelioma the wider perspective" 12 May 2009 with scientific, medical and legal leaders in the field. There will be a lecture on asbestos in schools. Agenda, speakers, precis of discussions and booking a place at this link. Medway Maritime Conference 2009

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    Parliamentary asbestos seminar “Asbestos Update” 13 May. Michael Clapham MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety, will chair it. The agenda is at this link. The General Secretary of the Association of Training and Lecturers and Carol Hagedorn, a teacher suffering from mesothelioma will be talking about asbestos in schools. The meeting is for MPs and invited guests.

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    NASUWT Conference Calls for removal of asbestos. A terminally ill teacher says ".I am understandably unhappy that the lack of proper asbestos control will end my life prematurely, like some sort of collateral damage or natural wastage in the education game".

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    BBC Investigation A detailed, factual investigation by Radio Scotland, applicable to the rest of UK. The BBC web site has now lapsed (some 20 days) but it is now on this link. Quotes: “What we are risking with this are young children's lives. The authorities have to be whiter than white, they have to prove to us there is no asbestos not just assume…. ”Asbestos expert
    “If I as a teacher was exposed to it then so also were huge numbers of children that were spending more time than I was in a particular environment. All these children will have grown into adults and are likely to be affected just as I was…”
    Teacher with mesothelioma

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    NW TUC Conference. Asbestos in Schools. Motion carried unanimously, Hear the speech

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    A Teacher's Story " I now have this terrible disease which need not have happened if I had been looked after in my professional environment".
    Leader, personal story and article: "Why is asbestos still being allowed to kill teachers and threaten thousands of pupils?" from Sunday Express

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    Parliamentary Debate The debate on asbestos in schools covered the issues well - the MP leading the debate was a Deputy Head Teacher so spoke from experience. Unfortunately an analysis of the Minister's reply was less than convincing and demonstrates that children will still be at risk. Analysis and Hansard script of the debate is at this link.

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    BBC 1 "Inside Out" ran a report on asbestos in schools on 25 March. It can be seen on the BBC Inside Out site. An earlier report can be seen on this site.

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    Welsh Assembly Asbestos Conference 24 March. The conference highlighted the problem of asbestos in schools.  A leading occupational hygienist, Robin Howie, gave a graphic illustration of how deaths from asbestos exposure amongst school teachers is significantly higher than one should expect in an occupation where there should be minimal or no exposure to asbestos. He stated that  between 1980-2000 male teachers have an incidence of mesothelioma deaths (PMR) almost ten times greater than would have been expected if they had had no exposure to asbestos. During the same period female teachers had an incidence almost three times greater. He stressed that the teachers’ deaths are but the tip of the ice-berg. Because for every teacher there are many more children, and they are more vulnerable. However because of the very long latency their mesothelioma deaths occur many years later and are recorded in whatever occupation they had at the time, and not as the result of their asbestos exposure at school. (Western Mail report)

    Dr John Osman, chief medical adviser of the HSE, said that 90,000 were expected to die in the asbestos-related disease “epidemic” by 2050.

    A senior HSE official Steve Coldrick, director of the HSE’s disease reduction programme, said: “This is an absolute horror story, there’s no getting away from it.”

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    Parliament An Early Day Motion has been put forward by Michael Clapham MP. It is for five specific changes in Govenment Policy on asbestos that the Daily Mirror is campaigning for.

    There is a No10 petition for the same proposals that you can sign if you wish to make a difference.

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    Sadly another teacher has died of mesothelioma

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    Update 2nd March 2009 Today the Daily Mirror launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the dangers and issues surrounding asbestos. The first article asks the Government to give financial support for a research centre into asbestos related disease. There is so much bad news associated with asbestos that this is a positive move forward and is a project that we strongly support.

    As part of the Mirror’s campaign there will be an article about the problems associated with asbestos in schools. If you have any comment or stories of bad asbestos management, of a lack of awareness or you know of any asbestos incidents in schools then please contact the Mirror at asbestos@mirror.co.uk  or join their blog at: http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/asbestos-campaign/

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    .Update 5 February 2009 Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-committee briefed by Teachers Unions, Asbestos Consultant's Association and a Teacher ill with mesothelioma on:

    • Poor asbestos management standards in practise in schools
    • Teachers' death statistics being the tip of an iceberg
    • Iceberg being childrens' deaths which are not assessed
    • Asbestos Consultants' repeat offer to inspect 100 schools is accepted

    MPs attending say that something must be done and Committee agree to speak to Minister again.

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    .Update 2 February 2009. Includes:

    BBC investigation into school asbestos management (video)

    • HSE reaction to BBC report and an analysis of the flaws based on referenced confidential documents
    • Lessons for schools

    Parliamentary Asbestos sub-committee consider repeated calls over many years for:

    • national audit of asbestos in schools
    • undertaking a risk assessment of asbestos in schools, particularly for children
    • reinstating a campaign to improve asbestos management in schools.

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    28th January 2009 - BBC Inside Out broadcast a report on asbestos in schools in the South East. The lessons learnt here apply to many schools in the country. There is detailed comment on the programme here and you can see the 13 minute video.

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    3rd February 2009 - a meeting of the Parliamentary asbestos sub-committee where the Liberal Democrats Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, the Teaching unions, the medical profession and others will join the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Safety and Health in his call for the Government to undertake:

    • A national audit of asbestos in the Nation’s school.
    • A risk assessment with particular emphasis on the risks to children.
    • Reinstate the campaign to improve the asbestos management in schools.
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    14th November 2008 - ITN’s Teachers TV broadcast a news report on asbestos in schools. The report focuses on the widespread calls for the reinstatement of a campaign to improve the asbestos management in schools, the need for a national audit of asbestos in schools and the need for an assessment to be made of the risk to staff and children. The calls are from the teaching unions, MPs, asbestos consultants, surveyors, doctors, occupational hygienists, solicitors, mesothelioma research organisations, mesothelioma support groups, teachers, parents and individuals.

    As licensing constraints prevent the showing of the videos for more than 28 days the following summaries cover many of the main points:

    A transcript of the report.
    An analysis of statements made by the HSE using confidential documents that show that cost is the reason the Government has never carried out an audit or risk assessment of asbestos in schools. A chronological list of calls for an audit with the source and the results.

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    14 Nov 2008 - Letter in the Times A letter from the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety, the medical profession and asbestos specialists requests action on asbestos in schools.

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    30 Oct 2008 - BBC Today report on asbestos in schools and other public buildings and an interview with the chest consultant John Edwards.

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    July 2008 - Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association professional development seminar. It identified failings in school asbestos management survey, procedures, training and standards.

    It was attended by asbestos surveyors, consultants, analysts and contractors, Chairman of the UK Asbestos Training Association, the Manager of the UK Accreditation Service, specialist scientists, local authority safety officers, solicitors, Teachers Unions and HSE Head of Asbestos Policy.

    Michael Lees presented. His notes (updated Jan 09) are attached.

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    .Friday 15 February 2008 ITN News reported on the discovery of asbestos in a System Built School and raised the possibility of the same problem affecting many other schools. This paper has guidance on asbestos precautions in these schools based on best practice. It has been written in consultation with experienced asbestos consultants.

 

 

 

Michael Lees
ml@asbestosexposureschools.co.uk