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Lawyer Says Edinburgh Asbestos Discovery Shows ‘Worrying Trend’ Of Presence In UK Schools

Pupils And Staff Evacuated As Asbestos Found In Edinburgh Primary School


A leading lawyer has said the discovery of asbestos in an Edinburgh primary school today (15 March) is part of a ‘worrying trend’ of finding asbestos present in UK schools after the deadly material was also discovered in primary schools in Hartlepool and Rotherham last week.

Reports in the media say Flora Stevenson Primary school evacuated all pupils and teachers following the detection of the potentially lethal material.

The discovery has prompted asbestos experts at Irwin Mitchell to repeat calls for urgent action to tackle the presence of the deadly material in schools across the UK.

Elaine Russell, a partner and expert in asbestos related disease at Irwin Mitchell Scotland, said: “The discovery of asbestos in an Edinburgh primary school today, and in two other UK primary schools last week, must have been extremely distressing for parents, staff, pupils and to those who were carrying out the work who discovered the deadly dust.

“Only last month we welcomed recommendations by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health that a scheme be launched to remove asbestos 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, and that regular inspections related to the management of asbestos should also be undertaken.

“These recent discoveries once again highlight the worrying trend of asbestos presence in our schools and show the urgent need for a national asbestos removal programme to be rolled out in schools throughout the UK.”

Adrian Budgen, head of the national asbestos team at Irwin Mitchell and member of the Asbestos in Schools campaign group, this week attended a meeting of the Asbestos subcommittee of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health.

At the meeting, the call for a phased removal of asbestos in schools was repeated by Michael Lees, a leading campaigner whose primary school teacher wife died of mesothelioma, and by Scottish support group representatives.

Adrian adds: “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 fact that over 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 largely ignored by most employers, putting very many people in danger and leading to a lot of unnecessary deaths. Now, with all information in the public domain about the dangers of asbestos, there is no excuse for failing to protect people from such an obvious hazard.”