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Serious Commitment Needed Over ‘National Scandal’ Of Asbestos In Schools

New Report Calls For Action


Legal experts representing victims and the families of those whose lives have been touched by asbestos-related disease have backed calls for the presence of the deadly material in schools across the UK to be urgently tackled.

In a new report, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health has estimated that asbestos is present in more than 75 per cent of the country’s schools and described the issue as a “national scandal”.

Experts at Irwin Mitchell have welcomed the group’s recommendations that a scheme is launched to remove the material under safe conditions and proposals that parents, teachers and staff are given regular updates about asbestos in their schools to raise awareness of the dangers it can pose.

Regular inspections related to the management of asbestos should also be undertaken, it has been suggested.

Irwin Mitchell’s team of asbestos-related disease experts represent a number of former teachers, school workers and pupils diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, and have campaigned for a long time for more to be done to address the presence of the dangerous material in schools.

Adrian Budgen, national head of asbestos litigation at the national law firm, said: “Mesothelioma has, for a long time, been linked to industrial exposure but, in recent years, we have been consulted by an increasing number of people who have been exposed to asbestos in schools and other public buildings.

“We are helping people who believe they were exposed to asbestos while being taught in school as far back as the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the families of teachers who have died after years of working in affected environments.

“Last year, a Supreme Court ruling in the cases of Sienkiewicz v Greif and Willmore v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council was a major step towards the proper acknowledgment of the risks that even low-level exposure to asbestos can pose in non-industrial settings.

“However, we are still waiting for a serious commitment to be made to tackle the asbestos problem in our schools as, without such resolve, there is a clear risk that people of all ages –particularly young children who are most susceptible – will continue to be exposed with potentially devastating consequences.

“A systematic plan to safely remove asbestos in schools is not such a tall order bearing in mind the inherent dangers, while the parliamentary group’s suggestion of regular updates on the presence and management of the substance will keep school users informed and fully aware of the risks.”

Adrian added that the estimate that more than 140 teachers have died from mesothelioma in the past ten years should be more than enough proof that urgent action is needed.

He said: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive cancer and it causes a great deal of suffering to those affected by it. It sadly remains incurable and stubbornly resistant to treatment. Asbestos is still the biggest occupational killer of all time.

“For decades the risks of asbestos were not recognised by most employers, putting very many people in danger and leading to a lot of unnecessary deaths. Now, we are fully aware of the dangers and there is no excuse for failing to protect people from such an obvious hazard.”

Our specialist asbestos claims team will provide you with free initial advice on your compensation claim if you or a loved one has suffered due to an asbestos related illness. See our Asbestos-Related Disease Claims Guide for more information.