U.K. – The Association of Teachers and Lecturers is urging the government to conduct a survey of all schools, including colleges, in the country to determine the potential risk of asbestos exposure to teachers, staff and students.
Schools that were built between World War II and the early 1980s are most at risk because asbestos use in constructing building was high during those times. It is estimated that asbestos was used in the construction of about 13,000 schools in the U.K.
At the next ATL conferencing happening next month, the teaching union will request the government to pass laws mandating the removal of the hazardous substance from all schools by 2010. Schools are already required by law to check for the presence of asbestos and take the necessary steps to have the substance properly contained and removed.
The ATL claims that even simple and common occurrences such as closing a door or putting a pin into a wall could release asbestos fibers to become airborne. The Department for Children, Schools and Families criticizes the union for making the allegation, which they say is unfounded and fear-inducing.
Dr. Mary Bousted, the union’s general secretary, said that over 400 members know for certain that they have been exposed to it while working at their schools.
Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive estimate that at least 182 people who worked in the education field have died from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by being exposed to asbestos that typically takes 15 to 60 years appear after initial exposure.