We are calling for an end to the fear caused to parents, teachers and school staff because of asbestos in school buildings. The issue of whether asbestos should be removed or is safer left in situ appears to be dealt with differently depending on who occupies the building: Leaving it in place doesn’t seem to be an option and cost does not seem to be a problem if asbestos is found in Westminster, Buckingham Palace or Bute House, but when it comes to our schools it is deemed to be safe left where it is or too costly to remove.
Why schools? Why children?
Asbestos causes lung cancer and mesothelioma. The dose level required to contract mesothelioma is extremely small. Potential exposure to asbestos in schools is more likely because of the nature of schools. A National Audit Office report found asbestos was a “potentially dangerous issue” in most schools, and warned it could be disturbed by “unruly” pupils or teachers attaching work to walls.
Children are more vulnerable than adults and therefore have a significantly higher risk of developing mesothelioma. A five year old child that is exposed is five times more likely to contract mesothelioma than someone exposed to asbestos in their 30s. It is reported that between 200 and 300 people die each year from exposure to asbestos as school children.
It’s no longer good enough for those in power in Scotland to deflect answering this question by saying that the management of asbestos in schools is an issue which is governed by the HSE and as those powers are not devolved this somehow absolves decision makers here from their responsibility to protect our children. Is our conscience and responsibility to protect those most vulnerable a non-devolved issue too?
We want a coordinated approach throughout Scotland. We are calling for the Scottish government to bring together all duty holders and decision makers to tackle this issue head on. Progress on this issue in Scotland has been too slow for too long. It’s time for that to change:
Last updated February 2020