Mesothelioma: We must protect our teachers from any hidden dangers

Mesothelioma dangers in the classroom

BEHIND every statistic we read about mesothelioma there lies a story – the story of another life lost from prolonged exposure to asbestos.

Sadly, over the years it’s a story that has become all too familiar. Despite being banned in the UK more than 20 years ago, asbestos is still all around us – in many old factories, office buildings and even in our schools.

Acorn Analytical Services has always taken its responsibility around raising awareness of the devastating effects of asbestos very seriously and last year, we launched a campaign aimed at highlighting the dangers of asbestos in our schools.

To mark World Teacher’s Day 2022, we’re returning to the classroom to find out just how much has changed.

Asbestos in our schools – the story so far

In the post war boom of the 1950s and 1960s, asbestos was an everyday product.

Cheap and fire retardant, it was used in a whole host of buildings at a time when new homes and infrastructure like factories and schools needed to be built quickly.

By the 1970s alarm bells had started ringing. It soon became clear that there was a direct link between the increase in the number of deaths from lung cancer and the use of asbestos. Even then, it would be another 20 years before the use of asbestos was banned in the UK.

According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 2,700 new cases of mesothelioma each year in the UK and 2,394 deaths. Many of these deaths can be linked back to exposure in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly among men who worked in the construction industry. The overwhelming majority of these deaths could have been prevented.

But it is the statistics around the deaths of teachers from mesothelioma which are particularly shocking. The UK has one of the highest death rates among teachers from mesothelioma in the world. In 2017 alone, 17 teachers died.

In 2021, working alongside people like Michael Lees, whose wife Gina, a primary school teacher, died from mesothelioma in 2000, we lobbied MPs to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos at the very highest level.

We targeted schools in Birmingham, encouraging headteachers there to take advantage of free asbestos audits and we worked with charities, including Mesothelioma UK to raise vital awareness.

What is the situation now?

It is our view that the problem of asbestos in schools has been overlooked for far too long.

A lack of funding in schools is only making the problem worse and potentially storing up even more problems for the future.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope.

Last month, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced that it would be conducting an inspection of primary and secondary schools to assess each school’s individual risk.

While this is, without doubt, an important step forward we believe much more needs to be done.

In our opinion, the only way to alleviate the risk completely is by ensuring any school built before 2000 is given a full asbestos audit and, where asbestos is found, a phased removal plan is put in place.

Our teachers, who work tirelessly to give our children the very best education possible deserve it. Our children deserve it. And we will not rest until the job is done.

Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. 

Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us

Ian Stone

I am based out of our Northampton office but regularly travel to meet with new and existing clients. I have assisted thousands of clients over the years on varying-sized projects, several have been schemes totalling over one million pounds spent purely on asbestos. Together with Neil Munro, I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I am Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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