Category Archives: asbestos exposure in school

Parents, teachers and governors knowledge and management of asbestos in schools

Although welcoming the fact that the council is checking the state of the fibres in schools, John McClean, GMB national health and safety officer, admits the union are concerned about the quality of these checks.
“Now that this information is finally out in the open and parents, teachers, staff and governors know exactly which schools contain asbestos we would also be interested in the council’s long-term plans on how to deal with this deadly problem,” he said.“Blanket claims that the asbestos is being managed properly often fail to address the nature of the environment in schools, where the presence and activity of children do not make a typical workplace and exposure to asbestos fibres can occur inadvertently.” The Trade Union Congress (TUC) have recently adopted a proposal, supported by the GMB, calling for all asbestos to be removed from public buildings, including schools, by 2028 and then by all buildings across the UK by 2035. The union are now hoping to meet with the council over the issue.

Barking and Dagenham Post 10 Sep

Teachers inhale dust from drawing pins

However, experts warn that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that we may continue to see a rise in mesothelioma related deaths in areas not traditionally associated with heavy industry. Experts believe that thousands of white collar workers, a group previously deemed to be low risk, could be susceptible to asbestos related diseases, due to the widespread use of asbestos as a building material during the second half of the 20th Century. Office workers, doctors and teachers all could have disturbed and inhaled deadly asbestos dust from an act as simple as placing a pin in an asbestos filled wall.

Legal Examiner 9 Sep

The BMJ predicted a rise in the number of asbestos related diseases.. teachers

Sunderland Echo, 11 Sep:The British Medical Journal recently predicted a rise in the number of asbestos-related diseases, likely to peak around 2020. The deadliest such disease is mesothelioma, for which there is no cure. Mesothelioma has mostly affected those who have worked in heavy industry without protection against the asbestos dust they were exposed to,” said Mr Hall. However, more recently cases have appeared where teachers and office workers have developed this disease.
These occupations were not previously considered at risk, but the evidence shows low level exposure to the dust is sufficient to cause disease.

175 schools across Shropshire with asbestos

Hundreds of buildings in use across Shropshire contain asbestos, new figures released by councils revealed today…. Overall there are 391 sites across Shropshire with asbestos, of which around 175 are schools, 13 libraries, 10 fire stations, and about 10 leisure facilities including swimming pools…. The building that contains the most traces of asbestos is The Shirehall in Shrewsbury, where 398 samples were found during an inspection. This is followed by the Grove School in Market Drayton with 270 samples and Idsall School in Shifnal with 257.

Sunderland Echo, 11 Sep

Five newspapers – mesothelioma death rates in their area include teachers

Five newspapers have figures for asbestos related cancern in its area and compares its mortality rate with the rest of the country. They recognise the legacy of heavy industry in making for high death rates in their area, but also draw attention to those exposed in schools who have never worked in heavy industry. South Yorkshire Times….. The Herald: Plymouth……- The News: Fareham…… Chronicle Live : North and South Tyneside, Newcastle on Tyne, Sunderland, Northumberland, County Durham, Gateshead …….. North West Evening Mail

An increasing number of school teachers die from asbestos cancer

North West Evening Mail: Shocking new figures reveal more people are dying of asbestos-related lung cancer in Barrow than anywhere else in England and Wales. “So although the numbers due to shipyard causes are dropping because of the asbestos ban in 1999, and even before that the shipyard realised and started taking regulation seriously, it’s not going away. “And we’re seeing an increasing number of school teachers die from asbestos cancer because over half our schools have got asbestos in. … “So we really need some action to try and address this problem as not being historical – it’s changing, but it’s still with us.”an increasing number of school teachers

All Party Parliamentary Group regulations for removal of all asbestos in schools by 2028

“The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health believes that the time has come to put in place regulations requiring the safe, phased and planned removal of all the asbestos that still remains in place across Britain. …..

  • the dutyholder must develop and implement a plan for the removal of all asbestos which ensures that removal is completed as soon as is reasonably practical but certainly no later than 2035. In the case of public buildings and educational establishments, such as schools, this should be done by 2028.”

Background – or read the paper:  APPG paper Remove asbestos in schools by 2028

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Edinburgh council removed asbestos but report of fine for exposure to asbestos dust at school

Edinburgh News: Lothian Councils pay £700,000 to asbestos victims… It was regularly used in buildings from the 1950s until the late-1990s when it was banned. With the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, in NHS Lothian more than doubling in the past 20 years, experts warn the number of claims will continue to rise… New figures, released under Freedom of Information, show that the city council has paid out £356,800 in the past five years to victims of asbestos. Midlothian Council has paid out £152,700 since 2008 and West Lothian Council paid out £196,817 in a settlement to an ex-council worker who developed asbestos-related lung disease.

In 2004, Edinburgh spent millions of pounds to remove asbestos from council buildings, including schools and public buildings… Five years later, in 2009, the council was fined £14,000 after exposing ten of its employees to asbestos dust at Castlebrae Community High School.

Council fined £14,000 after exposing employees in school

Edinburgh News: Lothian Councils pay £700,000 to asbestos victims… It was regularly used in buildings from the 1950s until the late-1990s when it was banned. With the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, in NHS Lothian more than doubling in the past 20 years, experts warn the number of claims will continue to rise… New figures, released under Freedom of Information, show that the city council has paid out £356,800 in the past five years to victims of asbestos. Midlothian Council has paid out £152,700 since 2008 and West Lothian Council paid out £196,817 in a settlement to an ex-council worker who developed asbestos-related lung disease.

In 2004, Edinburgh spent millions of pounds to remove asbestos from council buildings, including schools and public buildings… Five years later, in 2009, the council was fined £14,000 after exposing ten of its employees to asbestos dust at Castlebrae Community High School.

European Union: asbestos related deaths .. double road deaths. Over 80% of schools in one country alone, UK, contain asbestos

European Committees 24 June: Asbestos related deaths predicted to double those of road deaths. .. the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) heard .. testimony from some of Europe’s top experts on asbestos… placing the total number of estimated deaths in Europe at 47,000 per year, 50% higher than previously thought and double those related to road accidents.  Children and teachers in schools, DIY enthusiasts and maintenance workers are …. increasingly at risk from asbestos infested buildings across Europe…. Asbestos was used extensively in buildings erected between 1961 and 1990, with millions of tonnes still present in buildings, not only putting building and maintenance workers at risk but potentially anybody present or occupying the property…. Over 80% of schools in one country alone, the United Kingdom, still contain asbestos… “Member States and the European Institutions need to take action now to head off this emerging public health crisis.  National Action Plans need to be implemented and the European Commission should prioritize its response to this major risk to public health across all policy areas. We are talking about a lot more than traditionally exposed factory workers, now extending our concern to the children in our schools ………Mauro D’Attis, CoR rapporteur … strongly regretted the fact that asbestos removal is not high on the EU political agenda, emphasizing the lack of political will to deal with an issue that kills thousands of people annually. “We need a rigorous analysis of existing risks and an effective model for registering asbestos presence in buildings”

HSE new committee on workplace health excludes additional risks to children exposed to asbestos in schools

HSE web site: “HSE has appointed a new committee to provide independent expert knowledge and advice on workplace health… The workplace health expert committee (WHEC) will be made up of nine members who will provide expert opinion on emerging issues and trends, new evidence relating to existing issues and, on the quality and relevance of the evidence base on workplace health issues… In particular, the WHEC will focus on chemical and physical hazards.

Comment This committee effectively takes the place of the disbanded Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances (ACTS). Their remit does not appear to cover children in school as they are not considered by HSE to be ‘workers’ in a ‘workplace’. It is of concern that the additional risks to children in school from asbestos, rather than their adult teachers who are at a lower risk, do not appear to be in their remit.

NUT asbestos survey findings. 44% teachers not told about asbestos in school. 80% said parents not told

Summary of Findings of NUT Asbestos Survey

In March 2015 the NUT undertook a short on-line survey of a small sample of members. The responses were helpful in that they confirmed our fears about standards of asbestos management in many schools.  The findings also show that while there is a long way to go in terms of getting messages across about the risks to children and the risks to staff, there was near total agreement that there should be a long term strategy on the part of the Government for the eradication of asbestos from schools.

  • 44 per cent of respondents had not been told whether their school contains asbestos.  This is quite shocking since most schools (approximately 86 per cent) do contain asbestos.  If teachers haven’t been told, that means that not even basic awareness training will have been given.
  • Of the 46 per cent of respondents who knew that their school contains asbestos,  40 per cent had not been told where it is located, which means that they, and the children they teach, may be in danger of disturbing it
  • More than 80 per cent of respondents said that parents had not been given information about the presence of asbestos and how it is managed.  In the USA annual reports are mandatory.
  • Very few of the respondents who said that their school does contain asbestos had seen a copy of their school’s asbestos management plan (only 15%)
  • Of the respondents who knew that their school does contain asbestos, just over a third reported that there had been an incident which may have led to exposure.  A selection of comments from respondents on particular incidents is at this link
  • Over three quarters of respondents were unaware of the growing death toll among teachers linked to asbestos exposure.
  • An even greater number (nearly 95 per cent) were unaware that Britain has the highest mesothelioma rate in the world.
  • Only 20 per cent of respondents were aware that children are more at risk than adults from exposure to asbestos fibres, due to the long latency period for mesothelioma.
  • Only 13 per cent of respondents were aware that schools are not routinely inspected to check how asbestos is being managed….

College lecturer verdict ‘Death from industrial disease’

College lecturer verdict ‘Death from industrial disease.’
We are saddened to hear of the death from mesothelioma of Gwyneth Bonnet, a college lecturer.

North Wales Chronicle 30th April 2015
In a statement to lawyers Mrs Bonnet recalled how when she lectured in psychology at Coleg Menai, Llangefni, in the 1990s she operated in mobile and prefabricated classrooms which were dilapidated and whose walls and ceilings were infested with rats….Rev Tom Bonnet told the coroner that there had been a refusal by the authorities to provide evidence of what the situation had been.

Recording a conclusion that Mrs Bonnet died arising from an industrial disease Mr Gittins said evidence provided by her indicated that the exposure to asbestos would have occurred during her time at Pencraig.”

Music teacher died of mesothelioma. Local authority admit culpable exposure to asbestos

Music teacher died of mesothelioma. Local authority admitted culpable exposure to asbestos

Julia Popple died aged 54 from mesothelioma following following exposure to asbestos in her early career.

Mrs Popple worked as an assistant music teacher at a state school in Newham, East London in the 1980s when she was in her late 20s. She was only in employment there for three years but suffered what the local authority admitted was culpable exposure to respirable asbestos dust. The school contained lots of asbestos materials and some of the walls comprised asbestos insulation board. Lots of the classrooms had asbestos ceiling tiles and Julia often went into a broom cupboard to fetch a dustpan and brush when this cupboard was itself contaminated with low but, foreseeably harmful levels of asbestos dust and fibre….Stephen Glynn was prepared to take on the claim under a CFA well before the defendant admitted liability. He advised and drafted pleading which led to the settlement this week of the claim in the sum of £450,000.

Retired teacher Penny Devaney gave her life to education, literally

Asbestos: A double standard Retired teacher Penny Devaney gave her life to education, literally
SecEd 30 April: “Fire deaths, cycle deaths and school related asbestos deaths school-related asbestos deaths – while the government acts on the first two, it is scandalously slow to tackle the third, says Kevin Courtney… Perhaps it is the delayed effect – death can occur decades after first exposure. But those 200 to 300 former pupils who die each year are stolen from their families, often with dependent children, and are robbed of many years of productive life and a happy retirement.”

Daily Mirror 3th April: “Retired teacher Penny Devaney gave her life to education, literally.
Sometime during her 30 years at primary schools in Lancashire  she was exposed to asbestos, which was commonly used in public buildings after the Second World War, and now she has terminal lung cancer… Penny…won an undisclosed six-figure settlement from Lancashire County Council... Ian Toft, an expert asbestos lawyer at her solicitors Irwin Mitchell, said: “Penny, like many other teachers, was not warned of the dangers of asbestos, despite the risks of exposure being known for decades.”

NUT – Nearly 90% of schools contain asbestos and teachers are dying in increasing numbers

NUT conference 7 April. Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: “The continuing presence of asbestos in our schools is a scandal.  Nearly 90% of schools still contain asbestos and teachers are dying in increasing numbers. In 2012 alone there were 22 teacher deaths from mesothelioma. .. The Coalition Government has not acknowledged that there is a serious problem with asbestos in schools and as a consequence has, despite its recent Asbestos in Schools Review, failed to provide a long term strategy to address the problem. … We want to see nothing less than a complete national audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in our schools. In the short to medium term asbestos must be better managed.  In the long term, however, any future government must make real steps towards the removal of asbestos in schools, so that this threat to pupils, teachers and other school staff can finally be eradicated.”

Jennifer Barnett died .. came into contact with asbestos teaching in school

Jennifer (Jen) Barnett from Painswick, died five months’ ago aged 60 after being diagnosed with the extremely aggressive cancer which affects the lining of the lungs, leaving her husband Nigel and the rest of the family devastated. ..Jen taught at Archway School between 1980 and 1997, where she was known as Miss Shonk, and rose to become head of art before she left to have her fourth child at the age of 42. Her family believes she came into contact with asbestos during her time there when she pinned pupils’ work up for display onto the ceilings and walls… Her husband Nigel said “I am hoping that former teachers or ex-pupils will come forward who may have some knowledge about the asbestos ceiling tiles at Archway School or know of any other asbestos products or materials that were used there. I know that Jen was involved in clay modelling and that the damp cupboard for storing clay items was lined with asbestos board.”She also was believed to have been exposed to asbestos when she cut up a shed as a teenager, the pathologist conducting the post mortem examination was told.

My Sandra was killed by asbestos in school

“My Sandra was killed by asbestos in school. The grieving husband of a woman who died of cancer after being exposed to asbestos during her schooldays has vowed to carry on her fight for justice. Iain Naylor’s wife Sandra passed away last August, aged 52, following a painful battle with mesothelioma…… He said: “We are angry beyond words that Sandra was exposed to asbestos years after the first warnings went out in 1967 about the dangers in schools.”

The mum-of-two blamed her diagnosis on asbestos dust from building work while she attended Caldervale High School in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, between 1974 and 1979… Sandra was just one of thousands of youngsters potentially exposed to asbestos during their schooldays. Between 1947 and 1975 around 13,000 schools were built when use of the substance was at its peak. The average time from exposure to contraction of the cancer is 35 years and lawyers believe the peak of cases will come after 2020.

HSE visit .. only 39% of schools aware of DfE guidance on asbestos .. HSE no longer do safety inspections of schools

Legislation Watch:     Asbestos and schools: the lessons learnt (Legislation Watch 9 Feb 2015); “If children are exposed to asbestos, they have a greater risk of developing mesothelioma than if exposed in later life. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of teachers developing mesothelioma within the last 10 years… Of the 153 schools visited (by HSE), 20 (13%) were issued with an Improvement Notice… 24 other schools were given “written advice” on improving their controls…. 46% of schools did not have a comprehensive system in place to provide information to those who might disturb asbestos-containing materials… only 39% of schools in England were aware of the DfE’s guidance on managing asbestos in schools…. The competency of surveyors is critical in identifying where asbestos is and in what condition. Yet only 31% of schools could show to the HSE they had checked the competency of the surveyors they used… In relation to Asbestos Management Plans only half of the schools recorded all the details that were required, 33% had no such plans.”

Comment: This article underlines the failure of a significant number of schools  to safely manage their asbestos identified in the last round of HSE inspections. It also shows how essential it is to have a system of proactive inspections to identify those schools that are not managing their asbestos safely. However there is now no system in place as HSE are no longer is allowed to carry out these essential safety inspections.