Children in schools at risk of exposure to asbestos

The government’s advisory committee on carcinogenicity (COC) published their final statement (7 June) that concludes children are more vulnerable to exposure to asbestos than adults – the younger the child the greater the risk.

With over 75 per cent of Britain’s state schools reportedly containing asbestos, UNISON believes that this statement will raise concerns amongst parents that their children are being exposed to the hidden killer which can cause mesothelioma.

Every year over 4,000 people die as a result of past exposure to asbestos. It often does not appear until around 40 years after the person first breathes in the dust.

The COC’s conclusion should have a profound influence on government policy towards asbestos in schools.

The minister, David Laws MP, confirmed at the Education Select committee hearing on 13 March that the government will review its policy on asbestos in schools on receipt of the COC’s final report.

In the meantime, the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC), which UNISON plays a leading role in, will continue to campaign for a national audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in UK schools and for a risk assessment of the standards of asbestos management.

Only then can the UK government allocate proportionate resources and target those schools most at risk.

JUAC’s long-term aim is the phased removal of all asbestos from UK schools and colleges.

What can parents do?

Use this simple school asbestos checklist for parents to find out whether there is asbestos in your child’s school, and how the risk is being removed, reduced or managed.