Claims of Asbestos in Schools
It is worrying. In the United Kingdom, it has become increasingly apparent of the hidden dangers that lie within the buildings of schools. These dangers caused by asbestos, a common building material used in days gone by and the severe health risks that it brings with it, especially when asbestos fibres are inhaled. This blog aims to highlight the risks and dangers of asbestos being present in schools, the consequences that students and teachers could face, as well as the proactive stance that needs to be taken to ease the threat.
Asbestos, what is it?
A question you would be forgiven to ask, especially in modern times. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is known for its un-matchable fire/heat resistance and robustness. There has never been another material, natural or man made, that is deemed to be as effective as asbestos. It was used in many building materials, such as, insulation of various kinds, ceiling and floor tiles and many more. It is understood that many older buildings, such like schools, likely still contain asbestos materials.
Why Asbestos is Used in Schools?
When asbestos is disturbed or damaged the fibres can become airborne. One these fibres are inhaled; they can implant themselves into lung tissue and have the ability to develop into seriously sinister health issues later on. There are 4 known asbestos related diseases, Pleural Plaques, Pleural thickening, Asbestosis, and Mesothelioma, the latter of the two being more serious diagnoses. There is also potential to develop asbestos related lung cancer.
And this is in Schools?
Yes, asbestos was used in the construction of most buildings, it was thought to be a miracle material. Most Schools constructed before the end of the 1980’s are more likely to have asbestos in their building materials. The most common places you would find asbestos in schools is the ceiling tiles, floor tiles, pipe insulation, boiler rooms and even some Bunsen burner wire mats had a coating of asbestos. If the asbestos materials are undisturbed then there would be less of a risk, however, any building work or deterioration
have the potential to release fibres into the air and expose students and teachers.
What are the Risks to Students and Teachers On Exposure to Asbestos at Schools?
As Students are still only young and their bodies are still developing, they are more vulnerable to the long-term health effects of asbestos exposure. Teachers and other school staff will face similar risks if they have spent a pro-longed period being exposed to asbestos fibres. The amount of time it takes for asbestos to present as a problem (known as the latency period) is often many decades, the shortest amount of time is a minimum of 10 years. This means that if someone had been exposed to asbestos they would not know for a long time.
What needs to be done about Asbestos in Schools?
- Asbestos management plans – Schools should have a plan in place to manage, identify and monitor asbestos materials in their school. With the aim to minimise the risk of exposure, and ensure safe handling and removal.
- Regular inspections – routine inspections carried out by qualified professionals to help identify deteriorating asbestos materials and help to guide maintenance and repairs.
- Raise awareness in schools – educating staff, students and parents about the dangers of asbestos helps to promote safety and minimise risks.
- Removal – if the asbestos materials need to be removed then the work should be carried out by qualified professionals and contained.
- Funding – Government and education boards should provide funds to help manage asbestos. Providing funding for the safety of staff and students should be of upmost importance.
Asbestos in schools continues to be a substantial issue, causing a potential risk to the health of many students, teachers and staff. We must create a safe learning space for the children by implementing preventative plans. It should not be underestimated the hidden danger that asbestos poses in our Schools.