A special scientific consultative committee to the Government has concluded that children are at greater risk from exposure to asbestos than adults.
Pressure is now being placed on the Government to act upon the findings and undertake full review of current policies in relation to asbestos in schools.
The Department for Education’s – Asbestos in Schools Steering Group asked The Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (CoC) to look into the vulnerability of children to the effects of asbestos exposure.
There are 24,372 schools in England and it is estimated that more than 75 per cent of these schools have some buildings that contain asbestos-containing materials.
The CoC looked at two aspects:
Initially, whether children are more susceptible because they will live longer for mesothelioma to develop; and,
Secondly, whether they are more vulnerable because of their physical immaturity.
On the first aspect, the Committee reached unanimous agreement that children are more at risk. Because of differences in life expectancy, for a given dose of asbestos, the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed to asbestos at age 5 compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about 5 times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.
On the second matter, the Committee was unable to reach a conclusion on account of insufficient scientific research having been carried out.
The Department for Education and the Health & Safety Executive have vowed to carry out an internal review of their own policies on asbestos in schools following the CoC’s findings.
Download a copy of the CoC Statement On The Relative Vulnerability Of Children To Asbestos Compared To Adults