The scandal surrounding asbestos found in UK schools continues to build up steam as a government advisory committee has said that children are more likely to develop asbestos related diseases over the course of their lifetime than adults. The increased likelihood of developing diseases like mesothelioma stems from the fact that children will typically live longer and therefore have longer to develop symptoms. Mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases can take 40 years or more to fully develop.
In February 2008 an ITN report found that a System Built School contained materials made from asbestos. The same report also highlighted the fact that many other schools across the country could have similar problems and that children were being exposed to the potential dangers of the material on a daily basis while in their classrooms. October 2008 saw a BBC report with similar findings and, since then, a number of cases have been highlighted.
Most recently, a Freedom of Information request made to Warrington Borough Council unearthed the fact that 80% of schools in the Warrington area contained asbestos. Of 90 schools in the region, 72 of them were found to contain the deadly material.
The naturally occurring mineral was used as a cheap and beneficial building material between the 1950s and the year 2000 even following evidence that it could be potentially very dangerous. Companies were stopped from using the material and laws and guidelines put in place for the proper and safe management of the material. However, asbestos is still commonly found in many locations including homes, offices, garages, and schools.
It is argued that asbestos is safe when it is in good condition. It is the spores and the fibre of the material that get into and damage the lungs and lining of the lungs. However, as the condition of schools and other buildings deteriorate it is possible that the asbestos will be disturbed and the dangerous material released into the breathable atmosphere. Not only would this put teachers and staff at risk but children attending the schools could be put in danger of contracting any of a number of potentially deadly asbestos related diseases.
Asbestosis and mesothelioma are among two of the diseases commonly associated with exposure to asbestos spores. These diseases can take 20 to 40 years or more to fully develop and this means that somebody exposed at the age of 50 or 60 would be a lot less likely to suffer from the diseases than somebody exposed at a younger age. The findings of the government committee not only mirror this but take it one step further.
Campaigners have lobbied for asbestos to be removed from all schools but the government continues to deny that this is necessary, stating that schools in a good condition do not pose a risk. They say, in fact, that removal of the asbestos may cause a greater risk than carefully and properly managing the building and its use of asbestos related materials.
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