Head dispells fears over asbestos find

A HEADTEACHER reassured parents last night after the discovery of potentially lethal asbestos at a school where three pupils have been struck down with cancer.

A HEADTEACHER reassured parents last night after the discovery of potentially lethal asbestos at a school where three pupils have been struck down with cancer.

Worried parents raised concerns about a possible link after the death of Great Cornard Upper School sixth-former Matthew Brown, who lost his fight against leukaemia last weekend.

But Mike Foley, headteacher of the 900-pupil school, moved last night to allay fears and said the discovery of asbestos during building work on a new dining area did not pose any threat to pupils.

His comments – which were backed by leading national health experts – came after a worried parent contacted the EADT with concerns about pupils' health.

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Matthew Brown was the third pupil at the school, which is near Sudbury, to be struck down with the disease in recent months.

Jolene Roy was 15 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, which is related to leukaemia, while Talisa Waterson, 15, was told she had leukaemia in April.

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Talisa's mother Sheryl said: "I had heard there were a few people at the school who had got leukaemia.

"It does make you think but I think it is just a horrible coincidence. I have thought about the reasons a lot but the truth is no one knows why someone contracts leukaemia and that is very frustrating.

"Talisa has just come back from three days chemotherapy at Addenbrooke's Hospital so she is not so good at the moment.

"It is a long haul, but my thoughts go out to the parents of the boy who sadly lost his life."

But Mr Foley dismissed any ideas the cases were linked to the discovery of the asbestos.

"There is simply no link between the two – it has not even come into consideration," he said.

However, he said the find was being taken seriously and specialist workmen were disposing of it in the correct manner.

"The area has been sealed off by plastic sheeting and qualified specialist contractors are dealing with it.

"We didn't bring up the question of closing the school as it is only a small area which has now been isolated.

"There is certainly no danger to either staff or students – if there was slightest suggestion (of danger) we would have acted immediately. But if anybody has any concern, then clearly they should contact us."

Health experts said the number of cases to hit the school was "unusual", but described the current situation as a "fluke".

Ken Campbell, clinical information officer for the Leukaemia Research Fund, said the school had suffered more cases than he would expect but he said there was no medical reason for the high figures.

He added: "In this case, the high numbers are unusual, but not unheard of. One or two people have implied there might be a link between asbestos and blood cancers. But there is strong evidence to indicate that there is no link at all."

Last year, the EADT reported that Cornard Upper School pupil, Jolene Roy, had successfully overcome Hodgkin's disease, which attacks the lymphatic system.

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