"Asbestos in schools is a national scandal" - MPs
According to members of both Houses of Parliament, the continued instances of asbestos in UK state schools is a "national scandal".
After considering a report from the Department for Education (DfE) which estimates the presence of asbestos in over 75% of schools
, an all-party group has called for a plan to manage and remove the toxic fibrous material.
In the past decade, over 140 teachers have died from mesothelioma
, the cancer which attacks the lining of the lungs and is related to asbestos inhalation
According to education chiefs, schools should not ignore guidance, noting the importance of leaving intact asbestos undisturbed
Jim Sheridan, chair of the Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, said the situation was a national scandal. "Urgent action is needed to prevent more pupils, teachers and other staff being exposed to this deadly killer dust."
"We need both far greater awareness of the risks that this material poses and a programme for its phased removal."
Further recommendations include an annual asbestos awareness programme
for staff, teachers and parents, along with the reinstatement of inspections into asbestos management.
From the 1950s until the mid-80s, asbestos was commonly used in the building industry for fireproofing and insulation. Exceptionally dangerous when disturbed, its fibres when inhaled can cause grave lung conditions such as mesothelioma and asbestosis
Asbestos inhalation is the UK's biggest cause of work-related deaths, accounting for a yearly mortality rate of some 4,000, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Stressing that the welfare of pupils and staff was paramount, a DfE spokesman said it is unacceptable for any school not to comply with the strict statutory asbestos guidance.
However, he added: "HSE's expert advice is based on the best current evidence. It is absolutely clear that if asbestos is not disturbed or damaged, then it is safer to leave it in situ
, with strong systems in place to contain and monitor it."