Mesothelioma caused by the presence of Asbestos in Schools
By Kathy Cooke. 4th July 2013
In 2004, the Health and Safety Executive indicated the extent of asbestos in schools in the UK, noting that over half of the existing primary and secondary schools were built between 1945 and 1974, when asbestos was widely used in the construction industry. In addition many older school buildings were renovated during that time and asbestos containing materials may have been used in these refurbishments.
Prior to the dangers of asbestos becoming common knowledge, it was used in a variety of school building applications including fire, damp and loft insulation, pipe/boiler lagging, ceilings, floor tiles, walls amongst other applications. When securely sealed, asbestos poses no threat to an individual. However over time, particularly if school building maintenance programmes have proved sub optimal, the asbestos used in the construction of schools may become damaged through general wear and tear and also through maintenance work.
The asbestos containment may deteriorate such that the asbestos fibres become airborne and may be ingested / inhaled by individuals. Exposure to just a small amount of asbestos fibres can cause an asbestos-related disease, the most serious of which is the life threatening condition of Mesothelioma.
Management of Asbestos in Schools
Locating and managing asbestos in schools, including removal if appropriate, is a health and safety matter for schools and local authorities. A high proportion of school buildings still contain asbestos and under current guidelines the asbestos should be securely sealed so that it represents no health risk to those using the building.
Schools are legally required to manage any asbestos risk and to keep a register of the location of any asbestos ensuring that all staff are aware of asbestos location and condition.
Anybody who may disturb the asbestos e.g. maintenance staff, must be made aware of the presence of the asbestos so that the risk of asbestos exposure is minimised.
Unfortunately many schools have no asbestos management plans and do not know the full extent of asbestos presence in the school. Head teachers are sometimes unaware that asbestos exists in their school and so cannot inform teachers and maintenance staff of its presence.
Last year the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) compelled the government to undertake a survey of all schools to ascertain the presence of asbestos, also urging that all asbestos be removed from schools by 2010.
Mesothelioma Cases In Teachers
There is a latent period of between 15 to 60 years for people developing asbestos related diseases, including mesothelioma, as a result of exposure to asbesotos fibres. Over recent years there have been a number of cases involving teachers developing mesothelioma following inadvertent inhalation of asbestos fibres present in the school buildings, maybe from 20 -30 years previous.
The simple action of pinning students' work to classroom walls can dislodge asbestos fibres present in the walls which may be subsequently inhaled by the teacher. The Health and Safety Executive statistics show that there are an unexpectedly high number of deaths in the teaching profession from mesothelioma:- at least 182 people working in education died as a result of mesothelioma in Great Britain between 1980 and 2000.
What to do if you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma?
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma related to either your current or previous work in a school or college, please contact our freephone number 0800 923 0046 and ask for one of our senior specialists, Kathy Cooke or Warren Miller.
Our solicitors have vast experience in dealing with compensation claims from teachers developing mesothelioma (and other asbestos related diseases) as a result of exposure to asbestos in schools.