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Asbestos putting primary school children at risk in Surrey & Hampshire

4 minute read
Asbestos putting primary school children at risk in Surrey & Hampshire

Published at 9:03am 18th July 2019.

New figures reveal asbestos is still present in Surrey and Hampshire's primary schools.

Experts say it is is still putting lives at risk - even decades after it was banned, and warn there is 'no safe level of exposure'.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics has shown that asbestos-related deaths have been rising steadily over the past 35 years and beyond, quadrupling in the time period 1983-2017 to reach 13,000

Most of these deaths come from the asbestos-related cancer Mesothelioma, which commonly affects the lining of the lungs leading to respiratory problems, and has no known cure, according to the NHS website.

Kate Sweeney, a personal injury lawyer from the firm Stephensons, decried people thinking asbestos was a thing of the past. She said:

"Asbestos-related illnesses do not only occur in tradespeople or people who have worked in the construction industry.

This potentially deadly material has been used in all types of buildings, and is still present in many primary schools."

Deaths across Surrey and Hampshire have risen since the same 5-year period 30 years ago, with deaths from Mesothelioma in Guildford rising from just 5 in 1983-1987, to 36 in 2013-2017.

In Hampshire, the death rate from this cancer rose from 114 in the 80s, to a staggering 383 in 2013-2017. The whole of Surrey saw 52 deaths, before rising to 241, across the same periods as Hampshire.

In the past 35 years, deaths in Waverley from Mesothelioma totalled 107, with 22 coming in the 5 year period beginning in 2013. Woking has also seen 86 deaths from 1981-2017, with 12 of those coming since 2013.

Similar patterns are occurring in Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, who suffered 87 and 64 deaths respectively from asbestos-related diseases 1981-2017, with 19 and 13 deaths respectively coming in the period 2013-2017.

Liz Darlison, Head of Services for the Charity Mesothelioma UK, had this to say:

"There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and we should be doing much more to protect people, particularly children.

"The time from exposure to developing the disease can take several decades, which is why the level of concern is perhaps not fully appreciated.

"As a nation, we must take responsibility and rid our buildings of this cancer-causing substance, for the sake of our children, their children, and every generation in the future."

The Government's Health and Safety Executive expects asbestos-related deaths to rise until 2020, due to the banning of asbestos in 1999, however the material is still installed across many locations in the UK.

Many primary schools across England and Wales still have asbestos, as well as other schools across the UK, putting our children at risk of this disease without us even being aware of it.

Additionally, any older buildings with asbestos which have suffered damage can still release the harmful fibres into the air, further putting people at risk of asbestos-related illnesses.

The regular use of asbestos in the UK as a fire retardant material and for insulation has left many buildings with asbestos, even after the government's ban, and there is an increased risk of them in primary or secondary schools, due to the nature of pinning items to walls or playing football in the playground, which may cause the disturbance and release of asbestos fibres.

Should the UK have a National Survey to assess the quantity of asbestos in our schools?

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