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A study has revealed that asbestos is present in several schools in the United Kingdom.
In early 2016, the study looked into the asbestos management of over 5,500 schools. Among these schools, more than 4,000 reported the presence of asbestos within the school premises and over 1,000 schools admitted to non-compliance with asbestos regulations.
In addition, 114 schools were marked to have a “significant cause of concern” regarding asbestos exposure. However, these schools gave the assurance that they are handling the situation effectively.
Asbestos, a group of fiber-like naturally occurring minerals, is known to cause mesothelioma / ˌmɛz əˌθi liˈoʊ mə /, a cancer that forms along the lining around the heart, lungs, and abdomen. Even little exposure to asbestos can make a person susceptible to both mesothelioma and lung cancer.
The substance was used in construction as a fireproofing material until its dangers were discovered. Now, asbestos is suspected to be present in UK schools built between 1950 and 2000 because its use was not banned in the country until 1999. According to a report by the National Union of Teachers, 319 teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980. For every teacher who will die due to exposure to asbestos, nine children are expected to follow.
The Education Funding Agency (EFA) issued new guidelines to address the non-compliance of some schools in managing the risks of asbestos. The guidelines include a reminder to avoid certain activities such as putting pushpins on walls in order to prevent the release of asbestos fibers. Similarly, the Department for Education (DfE) is taking measures such as investing £23 billion to improve school buildings by 2021. The initiative will help guarantee the safe management of asbestos and the gradual reduction of the material in buildings.