United Kingdom–It has been reported that at least 272 deaths of teachers may have been due to asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that is a known carcinogen. This material consists of long, thin fibrous crystals and may be mixed with other substances in order to resist heat, electricity and chemical damage. Due to these characteristics, asbestos was used in many buildings and other structures throughout the 1900s.
The Daily Express reports that the approximated 272 teacher deaths, which occurred between the years of 1980 and 1995, were due to asbestos-related cancer. The exposures were thought to have occurred because of banging doors shut or when pinning material to the walls.
The U.K. Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, is now facing mounting pressure from officials to assess the risks to children and teachers, and to take action to try and prevent exposure to this deadly carcinogen. Some campaigners also demanded an awareness drive to make people more aware of the risks and dangers associated with asbestos exposure.
One consultant surgeon from the British Mesothelioma Interest Group said that thousands of schools contained asbestos, and that the U.K. government needed to follow the United States in running an assessment of these schools. He said: “This is potentially putting our teachers and children at risk.”
At present, government policy requires schools to manage their asbestos rather than to arrange removal of asbestos in these schools. Exposure to the substance can cause various cancers, including a form of cancer known as mesothelioma.
The newspapers also reported that this also placed thousands of children at risk.
Paul Rowen, Liberal Democrat MP and former deputy head teacher, told the newspaper that between 1980 and 2000, teachers had a proportional mortality ratio that is nearly ten times that of people who had not been exposed to asbestos. Teachers are also up to 10 times more likely to suffer from asbestos-related cancer than the general population, a conference has been told.
Earlier this month, the Daily Mirror reported that nearly 90 percent of the U.K.’s 25,000 schools contain asbestos.
The general secretary of the Association of Teacher and Lecturers, Dr. Mary Bousted, told the publication that for every one teacher twho is exposed to asbestos, thirty children follow.
Teaching unions demanded urgent action to tackle this “hidden killer” in Welsh and British schools.
Steve Coldrick, the director of the Health and Safety Executive’s disease reduction program, said that this is an absolute horror story and there is no escaping it.
Many education staff are unaware of asbestos’s presence until their workplace is renovated, causing asbestos aggravation.