With seven million children at risk, we can no longer afford not to tackle Asbestos in our schools
It’s easy to forget about Asbestos. Lying dormant deep within wall cavities and ceilings. This hidden killer lurks silently in homes, offices and public properties across the UK. Once a viable and popular building material, it is now recognised as one of the most deadly substances used in construction and manufacturing. The risk is still real and present – with over a thousand people diagnosed with Mesothelioma, the aggressive lung cancer caused by Asbestos exposure, in 2014 alone. Each year 5,500 people die from Asbestos-related diseases in the UK – a death rate that rises by 10% annually.
Perhaps the most concerning application for Asbestos was within schools and hospitals – public buildings housing vulnerable adults and children. As a cheap material, it was used extensively in decorative finishes, flooring, boarding, insulation and cement sheeting for its fire protecting, thermal, acoustic and binding properties. Whilst some efforts have been made nationwide to remove Asbestos from public buildings, it is still present in over 80% of schools in the UK that are largely unaware of the silent killer lurking in their midst. In this blog, we raise awareness of this growing concern and highlight the fact that despite the simplicity and safety involved in managing Asbestos it remains very much at large – rapidly becoming a rising danger in our schools, and a ticking time bomb for our children.
Asbestos – a dangerously underestimated dormant killer
We started this blog by highlighting how easy it is to forget that Asbestos exists all around us. After initial panic in the 1970s and the total ban of its use in 1999, until recently it has been rarely discussed openly in the media or by parliament. Public outcry was followed by some widespread yet insufficient efforts to abolish Asbestos – but largely, the issue was swept under the carpet. Now many people assume that Asbestos is no longer a problem in the UK – a historic issue of bygone days that has now been resolved and removed.
Sadly, this is far from the truth. Whilst the official advice maintains that Asbestos is ‘safe unless disturbed’, schools are naturally hives of activity. Without knowledge of the presence of Asbestos, it is likely that toxic dust is released into the air throughout the day as children run and play, and teachers put up displays and organise classrooms.
This situation will have catastrophic consequences if it remains unaddressed – as continued exposure to Asbestos results in early death from the devastating cancer it causes. Mesothelioma kills as many people as skin cancer each year – but without the same press coverage and funding it remains a little-known disease. Tragically it is only when symptoms are detectable that sufferers become aware of its presence – and by this stage, it’s too late to treat it. The case for greater vigilance, management or the safe removal of Asbestos is further impacted by statistics that prove that the risk is much greater for young people. The prospect of developing the disease is thought to be three and a half times higher for children who are exposed at age five compared to an adult of 25 years – and five times higher compared with a 35 year old. This means that seven million children and teachers all over the UK are at risk of an early and devastatingly difficult death.
A rising danger that shouldn’t be ignored
This ignorance surrounding Asbestos is possibly the key danger it presents to children and teachers across the UK. When it is managed, encapsulated and regularly assessed, it can be made safe. Yet most do not know it is present – and this is where a significant issue lies. Without knowledge of the presence of Asbestos, it cannot be properly managed or contained. This means that the material can easily be disturbed – releasing lethal fibres into the air on a continuous basis. For the many teachers who have worked in UK schools over the past fifty years and the children in their care it’s unfortunately a case of too little, too late. But if we act now, we can prevent a historic issue from affecting future generations.
Premature deaths are avoidable – as Asbestos can be removed or treated safely and cost-effectively
Perhaps the biggest tragedy of the continuing threat Asbestos poses is the simplicity involved in removing the risk for children and staff in affected schools. The process must be carried out by trained professionals with specialist equipment – and this often gives those holding the purse strings the impression that this is a complicated and therefore expensive procedure. However this is not necessarily the case – and whilst there is of course a cost attached, the potential loss of life and unthinkable health implications that are probable if Asbestos is allowed to remain far outweigh any financial outlay involved.
Operations Director at All Survey Ruth Wyers urges schools to get in touch – even if they don’t think they have an Asbestos issue -and especially if they aren’t sure. “People are still saying Asbestos disappeared in the 70s! Fact is, 83% of UK schools have Asbestos. How many other education facilities do not know they have Asbestos? At All Survey, we help people to manage their Asbestos and encourage them not to bury their heads in the sand. We can and do help many people take care of Asbestos – effectively, safely and affordably. Please don’t ignore this hidden killer!”
Asbestos won’t give us a second chance to make things right. If you think that your school may be affected by Asbestos, or aren’t sure if it is present at all, get in touch today. It’s better to be safe now in order to protect our future. Call All Survey on 0161 628 2555 or submit an enquiry via our contact page.
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