Calls for removal of asbestos in Leeds schools



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campaigners are calling for asbestos to be removed from classrooms after new figures reveal nearly three-quarters of schools in Leeds contain the dust.

Around 190 of the city’s schools contain some elements of the material which could be dangerous if disturbed.

Asbestos, which was often used in construction until it was banned in 1999, has been linked to diseases such as mesothelioma.

The daughter of a Leeds mesothelioma victim whose legacy is a research charity, deemed the figures “chilling”.

Kimberley Stubbs, daughter of campaigner June Hancock, said there is no such thing as “safe asbestos”.

She said: “I am not at all surprised by these figures - the scale of asbestos contamination is chilling.

“Asbestos isn’t ‘seen’ and therefore can be forgotten about in schools, homes and public buildings.

“The scale is frightening, like all parents I expect my children to be taught in a safe environment at school.

“Schools are uniquely subject to lots of disturbance including inquisitive children, pins in walls, kicking of doors and walls.

“They also tend to require regular maintenance which again can disturb asbestos and release the dust into classrooms.

“There is no safe asbestos.”

Paul Brennan, deputy director of children’s services said: “Asbestos, when correctly managed and monitored, is not a cause for alarm. We take the issue very seriously and I can assure families that the safety of our pupils, staff and members of the public is absolutely paramount. We have stringent management plans in place in schools where asbestos is present and headteachers take part in comprehensive training regarding asbestos management.

“Records are held by the council and schools and are reviewed by contractors commissioned to carry out work. In most instances, asbestos is perfectly safe when undisturbed.“

Tim Hale from the Leeds branch of the National Union of Teachers said the material should be removed from schools across the country.

He warned figures from US studies show that for every teacher death linked to asbestos there could be nine or ten child deaths.

Mr Hale said: “We would like to see a policy of progressive removal in schools.

“Schools are not really safe places for asbestos because they are so many users in schools.”

The YEP recently revealed more than 760 people in Leeds have died from asbestos-related disease mesothelioma since 1981.

Campaigners dubbed the city a mesothelioma “hot spot” and fear the death toll from the cancer may not peak until 2020.