More than 200 teachers have died in the past 10 years from the effects of being exposed to asbestos.
And for each teacher fatality, nine ex-pupils can also be expected to fall victim to the silent killer, a study claims – an average of almost 200 per year.
Breathing in asbestos fibres can lead to mesothelioma, a cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and can strike years or even decades after exposure.
Dr Mary Bousted of the National Education Union said ”These figures are shocking. No one should have to suffer an early death because the building they work in contains asbestos”.
”Education staff are at risk but of even greater concern are the children, who are more vulnerable to developing mesothelioma if exposed at a young age. ”The only certain way to prevent future deaths is to rid our educational buildings of this deadly material”.
Some 86% of schools contain asbestos, a study found in 2015. The material was typically used in buildings between the 1940’s and 1970’s.
Experts say it is a greater health risk as it gets older and starts to degrade.
A total of 211 teachers died of mesothelioma in 10 years, figures from the Office of National Statistics show. Of these, 128 died after the retirement age of 65 – showing the delayed effect.
Teachers’ unions have called on the government to pay for asbestos to be safely removed from school buildings. The Mirrors’ Asbestos Timebomb campaign for a national audit of all 23,000 schools in England has been backed by Britain’s biggest unions.
Mesothelioma claims 2,400 lives across the country every year. In 2016 an inquest heard primary school teacher Sue Stephens, 68, died from mesothelioma after teaching at schools in Buckinghamshire. The coroner said she had likely suffered fatal exposure to asbestos during building work at one of them.
And Michele Reed, 63, of St. Helens, Merseyside, died of mesothelioma in 2017 after teaching in the North West.
A study last year by the American Environmental Protection Agency estimated that for each school staff member lost to mesothelioma, nine former pupils can also be expected to die.
The Department for Education said ” Since 2015, we’ve allocated more than £7.4billion to maintain and improve the school estate, including removing asbestos when it is the safest course of action. Asbestos is a factor in choosing which schools to re-build through the Priority School Building Programme.”
Article first posted in the Daily Mirror 06/05/19