Authorities Must Learn Asbestos Lesson

Asbestos Related Disease

25.03.2009

A leading North East lawyer has urged the Government to learn the painful lessons about asbestos and enforce a mandatory survey of the mineral substance in all UK schools.

Reports have suggested that asbestos could be present in as many as 90 per cent of schools nationwide, but the exact figures are unknown.

The issue was the subject of a Parliamentary debate on Wednesday, March 25th and Roger Maddocks, partner and industrial disease specialist at law firm Irwin Mitchell, welcomed the talks but said parents and teachers were now looking for reassurances that their children's schools were safe.

He called on the Government to end the uncertainty by implementing a survey of all schools in the country, outlining which ones contained asbestos, which of those were in a dangerous condition and to publish a subsequent long-term asbestos management plan.

"We welcome the fact that the issue of asbestos in the UK's schools is now being debated at such a high level, but surely there is nothing to debate," he said.

"There is simply too much uncertainty surrounding asbestos in schools – we don't know where it is, how much of it is unsafe and, in many cases, who would be responsible for its removal.

"Irwin Mitchell currently represents a great many sufferers and their families whose lives have been torn apart by asbestos and the diseases it can cause – and teachers are increasingly included among our clients.

"The nature of mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos exposure but can 50 or more years to develop in the victim, means that it may take decades to understand the true extent of the damage that is being done.

"Mesothelioma has always been associated with heavy industry, for example shipbuilding, but we are now seeing a significant rise in the number of people from the professions, including teaching and nursing, which you would expect to be a low-risk occupations.

"Thousands upon thousands of workers in heavy industry were scandalously exposed to asbestos for decades during the last century. The death toll as a result of this is still rising and these lessons must be learnt.

"Put simply, there can be no further delay and no more excuses – the Government must bring the full extent of the problem to the public's attention and put plans in place accordingly."