Up until the middle of the 1980s, a number of industries regularly used asbestos to fulfil tasks such as fire-proofing and insulation. In fact, this material was so popular with the construction industry that it could be present in any property built or renovated before the year 2000.
Although many companies valued asbestos and praised its properties, these firms may not have realised that it carried a number of dangers. For example, if this material is damaged or disturbed, it can release fibres into the air which may become hazardous if inhaled.
Potentially, sufferers could develop health conditions such as mesothelioma – a form of cancer which usually becomes apparent up to 60 years after a person first comes into contact with asbestos. Sadly, the outlook for this disease is poor, often killing the sufferer within three years of being diagnosed.
This condition claims the lives of over 2,000 people annually in the UK. This death rate has only risen in recent years. Although it can be caused by other factors, the majority of mesothelioma patients will have developed their symptoms after suffering asbestos exposure – perhaps as a result of working on building sites, ports, or even in schools.
Asbestos in Schools
Although asbestos-related diseases are largely associated with tradesmen, in the last ten years leading up to 2012, at least 140 teachers died from mesothelioma. As asbestos was widely used during construction projects, it appears that many firms also used this material when building schools. In fact, rather worryingly, the Department for Education (DfE) states that asbestos is present in more than 75% of these institutions.
Furthermore, it has been claimed that when asbestos-related diseases claim the life of a teacher – statistically speaking – nine children will also succumb to these conditions.
Fortunately, asbestos will only pose a danger to individuals when it is damaged or disturbed. Consequently, a spokesman for the DfE stated that “if asbestos is not disturbed or damaged, then it is safer to leave it in situ, with strong systems in place to contain and monitor it”.
Despite this, in 2012, government MPs and peers stated that the prevalence of asbestos in schools could be described as a “national scandal” and believed that more should be done to prevent staff members and students from developing asbestos-related diseases.