December 7 2013 Latest news:
Exclusive by Lauren Everitt
Thursday, December 27, 2012
SHOCKING figures have revealed that asbestos could be present in hundreds of schools across the county.
Statistics obtained by a Freedom of Information request to Suffolk County Council show that 350 schools in the county could contain the material.
The data revealed the schools affected were opened before the year 2000. However the county council said asbestos is not dangerous unless it is disturbed.
In response to the FOI request, Suffolk County Council said: “An asbestos review was carried out at all Suffolk County Council premises in Suffolk including schools prior to 2008 and from this, our Asbestos Management Plan, was developed.
“This showed the extent, type and location of the asbestos. A programme of annual condition surveys are now carried out at all sites to monitor the condition of the asbestos.
“From our surveys we know that the only asbestos present in schools is in the form of solid materials such as asbestos cement where the asbestos fibres are firmly locked in the matrix of the material. This sort of asbestos only represents a threat when it is disturbed. At any other time it does not represent a threat.”
More than 228 teachers have died from asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma since 1980 according to the campaign group Asbestos in Schools.
Tim Humpage, partner at Gotelee Solicitors in Elm Street, Ipswich, said he has had enquiries from school staff.
“On a personal level my wife is a teacher so it’s something that I’m very aware of,” he added. “I would say around here, in my experience, it’s not something that has had a significant number of claims but with 350 potential schools with asbestos it’s by no means unlikely.
“I have had dealings with someone who was a workman at a school who disturbed asbestos that he had not been told about. That was not to bring a claim but to ensure the council had got a full record of the incident so if the worst was to happen and he develops mesothelioma, he has full documentation to protect himself.”
Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and property management, said: “We have worked with schools to implement a clear procedure for the effective management of asbestos contained materials in our school buildings.
“The asbestos management plan ensures the right steps are taken to minimise the health risks to our staff, students, contractors and members of the public visiting or working within school premises.”