Parents, students and staff are worried about asbestos exposure after it was revealed that asbestos is present in 90 percent of Bedfordshire County schools.
The county has confirmed the presence of asbestos in 192 of 220 schools largely because of the fact that it continued to be used in school construction up until the late 1990s.
Asbestos exposure within schools has become a serious problem according to a report by the Health and Safety Executive. The agency concluded that 179 teachers died from asbestos related diseases between 1980 and 2000. Additional statistics indicate that more than 100 education workers (teachers, maintenance staff) died in a four year period between 2001 and 2005.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has said it is deeply concerned over the presence of asbestos especially in areas likely to be disturbed and stated that 400 of its members have been knowingly exposed to asbestos.
An official with the Bedfordshire County Council underscored the presence of asbestos by claiming it was not at a dangerous level but did acknowledge recent cases of adults dying from asbestos exposure as a child.
The county maintains an asbestos register which stores information on the location of asbestos within county facilities. It is then inspected annually and if the material is found to be damaged, it is removed.
Asbestos was used in a variety of applications and can be found in areas both accessible and inaccessible to students. The more common uses include pipe and boiler insulation, vinyl tiles (and their adhesives) and textured coatings/finishes. The number of annual deaths in the UK attributed to asbestos exposure has nearly doubled since 1992.