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Asbestos in Schools

Radio 4 Report

Comment and podcast

Comment on statistics quoted
in this report

Teachers’ asbestos deaths indicate a potentially far greater number amongst former school children

ATL’s General Secretary, Mary Bousted, is absolutely correct that no teacher should be dying from an asbestos related disease - and yet they are, and in significant numbers. What makes schools unique from offices and other buildings is that they are full of children and there are many more children than there are teachers, the children are also more vulnerable to the effects of asbestos. If the teachers are being exposed to asbestos and dying of mesothelioma then sadly so are the children, but because of the very long latency their deaths are recorded under whatever occupation they had at the time and not as the result of asbestos exposure at school as a child.

The American Government estimated the total numbers of teachers and children who would be likely to die from asbestos exposures in their schools. The teachers represent 10% of the total mesothelioma deaths, whereas the children represent 90%. It must be assumed that the proportion is at least the same in this country.

Although teachers’ mesothelioma deaths are similar to some other comparable occupations, that does not mean that the deaths are from natural causes and are therefore of little concern, for the very opposite is true as both are the result of a considerable and increasing exposure to asbestos. Of equal concern is that the teachers deaths are increasing at a greater rate and in greater numbers than some other comparable occupations.

Teaching is a profession where there should be minimal or no exposure and yet there is ample evidence of asbestos incidents in schools releasing significant levels of asbestos fibres, in addition tests have shown that common, everyday classroom activities such as slamming a door or a child running into a wall can release frequent and cumulatively dangerous levels of asbestos fibres with many tests showing that those exposures are to amosite. These papers have extensive details Paper 1, Paper 2

Professor Peto’s research has highlighted that amosite is in all probability the main cause of the UK having the highest rate of mesothelioma deaths in the world. See page 40 of the abstracts of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group Conference in Amsterdam

His research shows that the UK imported more amosite than any other country which was then widely used in buildings, and in particular schools. His research also highlighted that throughout the world the UK has more than four times greater incidence of mesotheliomas amongst people with unsuspected asbestos exposure in both occupational and non occupational settings - Which is precisely what happens to teachers and children in schools.



The Radio 4 report brings out the failure of Government reports, statistics and procedures (including a very recent one) to address the following issue:

If teachers, a profession where there should be no asbestos exposure, are dying from asbestos exposure, what is happening to children - who are recognised as being particularly vulnerable to asbestos?

Comment on this excellent interview is opposite.

Click this link to see the podcast




Michael Lees 4 Jan 2006