Plea For More To Be Done To Clean Up Asbestos In Schools

Widow Calls For Government To Act


Experts have today repeated calls for more to be done to protect people working in schools from the devastating consequences of asbestos exposure after an inquest revealed a teacher died after breathing in the deadly dust.

Ian Bailey, head of the Asbestos Related Disease team at Irwin Mitchell made the call after the Bradford Coroner concluded that former teacher, Graham Butterfield, died of mesothelioma, an asbestos related disease.

Now his Widow is appealing for the Government to do more to ensure that the lives of teachers and students are not affected by the legacy of asbestos in schools throughout the United Kingdom.

Ian, a Partner in the Asbestos Related Disease Team at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds, said: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive cancer which causes a great deal of suffering to its victims. Unfortunately it still remains incurable, and makes asbestos the biggest occupational killer of all time.

“Asbestos has long been associated with heavy industry but sadly we are seeing an increasing number of people from other professions suffering from related illnesses.”

Many schools built between 1940 and 1980 contain asbestos with Government estimates believing that in 2008 around 70 per cent of school buildings contained asbestos. More than 228 school teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980 with 140 dying in the last ten years. School caretakers, cleaners, cooks, secretaries, teaching assistants and nursery nurses have also died of the cancer.

Bailey said: “The extent of asbestos found in schools is particularly worrying as no audit has been carried out to examine the extent, type and condition of asbestos in the UK’s schools. What is clear is that asbestos is likely to be found in older buildings but there is no systematic plan to remove this asbestos from schools.

“With the scrapping of plans by the Government to build new schools to replace older ones, we are losing a tremendous opportunity to ensure the safety of teachers and pupils for the future. Without a serious commitment to tackle the problem of asbestos in our schools, it is inevitable that further lives will be lost unnecessarily.”

Background on Mr Butterfield

Mr Graham Butterfield first became ill with a troublesome cough in the summer of 2009. He had been troubled by sweating and weight loss and breathlessness and although he was previously a fit man he was suddenly unable to walk very far.

He underwent extensive investigations and was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. He endured extensive pain during his illness and sadly died in January 2011 aged 64.

Mr Butterfield had worked as a teacher at both Tong Comprehensive School and Hutton Middle School between1967 and 1996. Before he died, Mr Butterfield explained that workmen at the schools removed asbestos ceiling tiles disturbing the deadly dust. He also added that while at Hutton Middle School he helped with the cabling of computers throughout the school which involved being in the basement and service tunnels exposing him to asbestos lagging dust.

Graham’s widow, Mrs Marilyn Butterfield, said: “To lose Graham to mesothelioma was devastating. You often hear about workers in heavy industry becoming ill in later life but Graham was a teacher and we were shocked when Graham was told that he had an asbestos disease.

“I cannot believe that he was exposed to this dust in a teaching environment which should be a safe place for our children to learn. I call upon politicians of all parties to look seriously at the problem of asbestos in schools and plan properly how to ensure the safety of teachers and pupils in the future. Nothing can bring Graham back and we miss him every day, but I desperately want something positive to come from his death so that nobody else goes through what we have been through.”